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Apple and other tech companies urged passage of a controversial pro-surveillance bill. (Photo: Jorge Quinteros/flickr/cc)

Tech CEOs Branded Privacy Traitors For Their Quiet Push to Pass CISA

'Internet users are fed up, companies that abandon their commitment to user privacy and security should expect the Internet to abandon them.'

Nadia Prupis

Internet users are calling out a dozen tech giants for their sudden turnaround on a controversial privacy bill, launching an email campaign this week with the plain message, "You betrayed us."

The chief executive officers of Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Symantec, and other companies, along with Salesforce web hosting service, quietly sent a letter (pdf) to U.S. Congress earlier this month endorsing the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a bill that would allow tech companies to share user information with the government in cases of "cybersecurity threats"—which privacy advocates say only serves to broaden government spying powers and reduce consumer protections.

Online activists say the reason the companies changed their stance on CISA—also known as the Cyber Threat Information Sharing Legislation, as it is referred to in the letter—is because the bill would grant them "total immunity" from prosecution for sharing private user data with the government.

"[T]hese companies know that their customers hate CISA, and so they're jumping into the water together, hoping there's safety in numbers," the new campaign states at its website, YouBetrayedUs.org. "After all, you can't blame Microsoft if Apple is doing the same thing, right?"

More than 15,000 users sent emails to the tech companies reading, "By supporting CISA, you are selling out your customers' privacy to a power-obsessed government. And what are they giving you in return? Immunity from privacy laws will be nothing compared to the damage done to your businesses when consumers leave you."

In addition to the email push, digital rights group Fight for the Future is boycotting its Heroku/Salesforce web hosting service for what it called a "remarkably irresponsible approach" to cybersecurity that would undermine public trust in the tech industry.

CISA has yet to be voted upon by the Senate, although a decision is expected this fall. But public outcry and grassroots campaigns against government surveillance in the wake of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations caught on with tech companies who said they valued user privacy over government access to data. In June, Apple CEO Tim Cook slammed the company's rivals, including Google and Facebook, for "gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it."

But in their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who introduced the CISA legislation, Apple and 13 other tech companies appealed for "urgent action" by Congress to pass CISA and other pending bills to "improve trust in information technology, software and data services while also shaping the law in our online world."

Fight for the Future, which has helped lead the call to kill CISA quickly galvanized online activists to challenge the companies' private backing of pro-surveillance legislation.

"Any company that supports a bill like CISA or sits silently and allows it to pass is a company that can't be trusted," said Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer. "Internet users are fed up, companies that abandon their commitment to user privacy and security should expect the Internet to abandon them."


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'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·


'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·


Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·


'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·

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