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Challenges to 'Cybersecurity' Bill Grow as Congressional Hearings Loom

Concerns over privacy and civil liberties raise alarms bells over CISPA

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Following the re-introduction of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in Congress last month, voices against the 'cybersecurity bill'—deemed a major threat to civil liberties by its many critics—have grown louder across the country.

Photo: Free Press Pics via Flickr / Creative Commons License This week, a petition placed on the U.S. government's website 'We the People' reached over 100,000 signatures. The 100,000 signature threshold legally requires the White House to release an official response to the petition's greviences.

The petition reads:

CISPA is about information sharing. It creates broad legal exemptions that allow the government to share "cyber threat intelligence" with private companies, and companies to share "cyber threat information" with the government, for the purposes of enhancing cybersecurity. The problems arise from the definitions of these terms, especially when it comes to companies sharing data with the feds.

Additionally, on Monday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and over 30 other internet privacy advocates and civil liberty groups sent a letter to members of Congress demanding they vote "No" on CISPA.

In the letter, the groups—including Mozilla, the ACLU, and the American Library Association—called on representatives to oppose CISPA because of privacy and civil liberties concerns:

We the undersigned organizations write in opposition to H.R. 624, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2013 (CISPA). We are gravely concerned that this bill will allow companies that hold very sensitive and personal information to liberally share it with the government, which could then use the information without meaningful oversight for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity. [...]

CISPA's information sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like internet records or the content of emails, to any agency in the government including military and intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency or the Department of Defense Cyber Command. Once in government hands, this information can be used for undefined 'national security' purposes unrelated to cybersecurity.

Read the full letter here.

Congress is holding three different hearings on CISPA this week. The hearings will focus on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) role in cybersecurity, proposals to increase penalties for "computer crime laws" (such as those pursued against social justice activist Aaron Swartz), and the future of the U.S. military in modern information technology.

And RT adds:

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Sen. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Calif.) unveiled CISPA to their Capitol Hill colleagues last year and touted it as a surefire solution to the impending cyberwar that lawmakers in Washington — including the Pres. Obama — have repeatedly warned of during his tenure as commander-in-chief. In the wake of protests aimed at other computer bills, such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its sister bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the public response to CISPA was overly negative and it never advanced in the House of Representatives far enough to be voted on before the last congressional season expired. Rogers and Ruppersberger recently reintroduced their failed bill, however, and hope to have it added to the books soon as warnings of a cyberwar with the likes of Iran and China continue to come from Washington’s elite.

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