Don't freak out about CISPA again (yet)

Summary:We don't know enough about this revised version of the bill to freak out, and it still has a bunch of hurdles to get through. But, if it does get through the House, and if we still don't know much about it, go ahead and freak out.

The revised version of CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, is on its way to the House floor. On Wednesday, it passed the House Intelligence (two words you don't normally see together) panel, and its next stop is a full House vote.

This doesn't mean CISPA is a done deal. As many of you know, I called the earlier incarnation of CISPA "more heinous than SOPA". Whether this new version includes bug fixes or adds new "features" remains unclear.

The problem is, we really don't know what is in this version. So much for transparency. Even though we don't know what the bill contains, The Hill reports we can rest assured because such champions of privacy as Google, Yahoo, and Oracle that support the bill, saying Congress is "taking steps to address privacy concerns".

Steps. Whatever that means.

I've talked about these issues before. For example, Ben Franklin would say our online liberty is the same as liberty itself. On the other hand, as a cyberwarfare advisor to various government officials, agencies, and NGOs, I'm also quite aware of the very real threat that's out there. We need comprehensive cybersecurity protections, and that means we need modern laws that address those protections.

The problem, of course, is letting our lawmakers make laws about cybersecurity is probably a mistake.

It may also be a mistake to put too much of our trust in the very large tech companies, many of whom trade almost entirely on the personal data we've willfully volunteered in return for trinkets like free email and the ability to "Like" someone we've never met or wish would like us back.

The key rights issue of CISPA — and any other cybersecurity legislation — has to be clearly and constitutionally answering the question, when it comes to cybersecurity law, where do we draw the line on information sharing?

For now, we don't know enough about CISPA to freak out. It still has to make it through the House, through the Senate, and then to the President's desk. Last time, President Obama threatened to veto it. We also don't know where he stands, again, because we really don't know enough about this CISPA beta release.

So, that's why I'm telling you not to get all freaked out. Just because the panel passed the bill, don't freak out. Even if the House passes the bill, don't freak out. But once it makes it to the Senate, and if we don't know any more about what's inside it than now, then it will most definitely be time to freak out.

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Topics: Privacy, Government, Security

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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