CISPA: GOP Is Trying To Take Our Privacy Rights Away Again | Jive in the [415] Blog | Gay LGBT News Political Commentary

April 20, 2012

CISPA: GOP Is Trying To Take Our Privacy Rights Away Again

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Say it isn’t so! SOPA/PIPA Redux: Facebook, Microsoft, ATT, and Verizon are in bed with Republicans and support this cyberspying bill.

I saw the first article about this last week, and as I read Violet Blue’s excellent CNET article about the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), I thought to myself that they can’t be serious about this bill. Didn’t the American people make it clear that we value our privacy rights, we believe in due process under the law, and we want to keep the privacy rights that our Constitution grants to us? Didn’t we just go through this?

Violet began her compelling story like this:
Meet CISPA. 
You may not have heard of it yet because it’s been flying under the radar. It’s a lot like PIPA, which was a lot SOPA (I’m sure you heard of those).  
Actually, some people are calling it “worse than SOPA,” and it’s sponsored by a congressman who thinks the death penalty should be considered for Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking military information to Wikileaks. 
Be worried: they think we stopped paying attention after SOPA -- so they made this. 
CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (PDF) (aka H.R. 3523), is up for a vote in two weeks. Unlike its failed cousins, it has the support of companies such as AT&T, Facebook, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec, Verizon, and many more.

As a dutiful citizen, I read H.R. 3523 - and there is no question that our civil liberties are under attack, and guess who is leading the charge? House Republicans.

This bill would allow US corporate entities like AT&T and Facebook, to share your personal information (which includes phone calls, email, websites visited, internet surfing habits, phone records, etc), with the federal government and law enforcement agencies. The bill does not contain one sentence to protect the interests of “the people ‘ -  and I mean you and me.

This bill has nothing to do with domestic terrorism, and this bill has nothing to do with our safety online, or our personal safety. This bill allows the government and government agencies unfettered access to our personal information - and all they have to do to get this information is ask Facebook or AT&T or Verizon. There are no provisions to notify consumers, there are no penalties if the government or these private companies share our  information in error. The bill also specifically states that consumers cannot file suit to protest or contest the sharing of our information, and no one can seek damages if they are injured due to the sharing of this data.

The corporate interests rallied around this legislation, because they’re allegedly interested in receiving information related to network threats from the government. The federal government can share that information if they choose, without compromising our constitutional rights.

This is a BAD bill, and is a perfect illustration of the disregard that Republican members of Congress have for the average American. That;s why we have to publicize the bill, and make our feelings known in Washington. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and many of their partner organizations have set up a website where you can fill out a quick form and register your protest to Washington. You can find the “Stop Cyber Spying” page right here by clicking this link.

When members of Congress were sworn into office, they swore that they would uphold and protect the Constitution. This bill does not uphold or support our Constitutional rights, it erodes our rights. And as such, any Senator or Congressman that votes for this bill should be impeached.

What do you think?

Frequently Asked Questions About CISPA

Here’s a FAQ from my friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
Q. Under CISPA, can a private company read my emails? 
A. Yes.  Under CISPA, any company can “use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property” of the company. This phrase is being interpreted to mean monitoring your communications—including the contents of email or private messages on Facebook. 
Q.Under CISPA, can a company hand my communications over to the government without a warrant? 
A. Yes. After collecting your communications, companies can then voluntarily hand them over to the government with no warrant or judicial oversight whatsoever as long is the communications have what the companies interpret to be “cyber threat information” in them. 
Q. Under CISPA, what can I do if a company improperly hands over private information to the government? 
A. Almost nothing. CISPA would affirmatively prevent users from suing a company if they hand over their private information to the government in virtually all cases. A broad immunity provision in the proposed amendments gives companies complete protection from user lawsuits unless information was given to the government: 
(I) intentionally to achieve a wrongful purpose;
(II) knowingly without legal or factual justification; and
(III) in disregard of a known or obvious risk that is so great as to make it highly probably that the harm of the act or omission will outweigh the benefit. 
As Techdirt concluded, “no matter how you slice it, this is an insanely onerous definition of willful misconduct that makes it essentially impossible to ever sue a company for wrongly sharing data under CISPA.” This proposed immunity provision is actually worse than the prior version of the bill, under which companies could be sued if they acted in “bad faith.” 
Q. What can I do to stop the government from misusing my private information? 
A. CISPA does allow users to sue the government if they intentionally or willfully use their information for purposes other than what is described above.  But any such lawsuit will be difficult to bring.  For instance, the statute of limitations for such a lawsuit is two years from the date of the actual violation.  It’s not at all clear how an individual would know of such misuse if it were kept inside the government. 
Q. Why are Facebook and other companies supporting this legislation? 
A. Facebook and other companies have endorsed this legislation because they want to be able to receive information about network security threats from the  government. This is a fine goal, but unfortunately CISPA would do far more than that—it would eviscerate existing privacy laws by allowing companies to voluntarily share users’ private information with the government. 
Q. What can I do to stop this bill? 
A. It’s vital that concerned Internet users tell Congress to stop this bill. Use EFF’s action center to send an email to your Congress member urging them to oppose this bill. 
We’re also joining other civil liberties organizations in Stop Cyber Spying Week, a week of action to protest CISPA.    
The goal of this week of action is simple: get Congress to back off of any cybersnooping legislation that sacrifices the civil liberties of Internet users. We’ve set up a dedicated Twitter tool to help Internet users tweet messages to their Congressional representatives opposing CISPA.

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