Congress passed the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act earlier this week. CISPA would allow private companies to share information about its users with the federal government in the interest of circumventing possible cyber security threats. Critics like Rainey Reitman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation have stated that the bill is dangerously vague and that “To date, the authors of the bill have been unresponsive to these criticisms, offering amendments that are largely cosmetic. Dismissing the grave concerns about how this bill could undermine the core privacy rights of everyday Internet users, Rep. Mike Rogers (one of the bill’s authors) characterized the growing protests against CISPA as 'turbulence' and vowed to push for a floor vote without radical changes.” Sharon Bradford Franklin of the Constitution Project has stated that the current draft of CISPA “does not come close to addressing civil liberties threats,” and Ron Paul has criticized the bill as “Big Brother writ large,” and that “the bill will make government spies of Facebook and Google.”
The bill is characteristically vague when defining what constitutes a threat to cybersecurity. In its current form the bill would allow internet companies like AT&T, Verizon, Google, and Microsoft (who all support the bill) to share customer information with any federal agency if that user is a potential threat to cybersecurity. Under this law, companies could potentially share your information with the federal government without any judicial oversight. It is prescient that Ron Paul mentions Google specifically. After opposing SOPA, which is essentially an earlier version of this same law, Google quietly announced last year that it was actually lobbying for and helping to craft the legislation of CISPA. This is a company that has time and again flaunted the legitimate privacy concerns of its users, and has shown a chilling complicity with the federal government to harvest the private information of law-abiding citizens. This is no wonder considering Google’s ties with In-Q-Tel, a CIA venture capital branch. Facebook also has a history of insouciance about its users privacy concerns. In 2010 it was revealed that Facebook’s popular apps leaked private user information to advertisers without the user’s knowledge. In a private chat session with a friend, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, ridiculed his users saying “They trust me. Dumb fucks.”
The Obama administration has officially opposed CISPA in its present form and would likely veto the bill, but it is important to note that the Obama administration would rather all information sharing that the bill proposes be handled by the Department of Homeland Security to safeguard citizens' privacy rights. If you’ve been to an airport in the past ten years you know that the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t exactly made your privacy a priority.
The internet is now the frontline for citizens who want to expose government corruption and fight for liberty. The state is frightened by how easily citizens can share information about their misdeeds, and CISPA is a desperate move to track you, control you, and shut down your freedom of speech. Right now, the Senate is holding off on voting for CISPA, so now is your chance to contact your senator and urge them to vote NO on this privacy busting piece of legislation. Feel free to copy and paste the following message to an e-mail or letter to your senator. Of course, your message should be addressed to your particular senator. If enough people make their voices heard we can stop this legislation just like we stopped SOPA. Act now!
Dear Senator (name here),
I am writing to urge you to vote “no” on the CISPA bill should it be taken up by the Senate. CISPA does not adequately protect the privacy concerns of law-abiding citizens who do not want their information shared with the federal government. It is very discouraging to see Congress pass a bill that so flagrantly violates our fourth amendment rights. Of course I want the internet to be a secure place for people to share information and conduct business, but that security should never come at the expense of civil liberties. Benjamin Franklin wisely counseled us that “those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.”
I am standing with privacy advocates in the ACLU, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Constitution Project, and others to oppose any legislation that grants the government broad powers to gather my information without due process, impartial oversight, or transparency. I urge you to do the same.
(Your name here)