Last year, thanks to a public outcry, the effort to pass overreaching cybersecurity legislation stalled in the Senate. Now supporters have reintroduced the House version of that legislation — the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).
The “new” version is in fact identical to the original CISPA — and poses the same threat to our digital civil liberties and our freedom to connect online.
Here’s what we had to say about CISPA last April:
CISPA would allow companies and the government to bypass privacy protections and share all sorts of information about what Americans do online. The legislation makes it far easier for authorities and private companies to spy on your email traffic, comb through your mobile texts, filter your online content and even block access to popular websites.
The new CISPA — just like the old CISPA — would protect companies like Facebook and Microsoft from legal liability when they hand over your sensitive online data to the federal government, without any regard for your privacy. The bill would permit the government — including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security — to use that information for matters that have nothing to do with cybersecurity. The whole process would, of course, take place behind closed doors, with no accountability to the public.
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Last year’s activism succeeded in improving a similar bill in the Senate, before that bill ultimately failed to move forward. At the time, President Obama vowed to veto any destructive CISPA-like bill that reached his desk.
This time around, for a number of reasons — including changes in Obama’s staff and shifting political dynamics — it’s unclear if the president would once again commit to vetoing CISPA. So if this “new” bill goes farther than it did last time around, we simply don’t know what will happen.
If CISPA becomes law, it will be a major blow to our online privacy. But more than that, CISPA’s passage would have a chilling effect on our freedom to connect online. We won’t feel as free to state unpopular opinions, or to speak truth to power, if we know that Big Brother is getting a feed of everything we say and do.
This is not what the free and open Internet is about. We need to bury this bill for good.