Don't freak out about CISPA again (yet)

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


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Yes, do get freaked out about it

    For the most part, it is a rehash of the same law that the populace already rejected, which the politicians are trying to ram down our throats once again.

    We don't need CISPA, law enforcement already has all the tools and justifications for using those tools that they need. We do not need to loosen the standards for them once again.
    • Don't wait until it is too late

      Yes, if we are to wait until the cage door is welded shut it will be a little too late.

      If the law was to be done right it would be designed similar to an open source project with the full participation of the American public. Without this level of transparency, abuse through secrecy will naturally result.

      What proof or indication do we have that the designers of this proposal have any true concern for the public welfare?
  • If government snooping leads to deletion of evidence ...

    As was evident with the deletion of evidence on Gitmo detainees, allowing the government to snoop on email gives them leeway to basically rewrite history to be more favorable to their position. Bad all around.
  • Catch 22

    I agree with Lerianis10, there are probably enough loopholes in place for government to do as they wish. I would only support a bill protecting personal data, requiring sites relying on our personal information to incorporate the best security technology available at any point in time. Not being in IT this law may already exist, but I doubt it.
    I could care less if the government is snooping on me as I am not doing anything so what's the point other than wasted tax dollars! I do agree with Vapur9 as well, but our government needs a certain amount of leeway when it comes to protecting the ground we walk on, it's a Catch-22. This is an area that you're damned if you do , but may be dead if you don't; as I said, Catch-22!
    • I don't think they need much, if at all, leeway

      After all, if they are willing to swear in a court of law that they truly believed that there was an imminent risk of death or serious injury to a person? They can ALREADY ask for warrants after the fact or ignore getting a warrant before a search.

      What we need on the internet is more privacy and more encryption of our communications, so that government cannot monitor them. Sure, that will allow criminals to not be found by the government, but so would using a coded message in a letter.
  • This Bill is BS

    Once this bill passses privacy will be lost completely. We don't have to fear others finding out our information because the government will have a database full of all of our stuff. This bill is just another excuse to let big brother see what we are up to. I have nothing to hide, but I also don't want the anyone to have nearly full access to what type of sites I am looking at.

    Like Lerianis10 out online liberties will be no more if this or any bill similar to this passes.
  • Freedoms are going away.

    Anything you say (or write) can and will be be used against you in a court of law. Time to step back from adding information about yourself on the internet.

    I am 75 years old and you young ones do not now and never will know what freedom was like.
    Very, very sad.

    Welcome to Amerika.
    • Al-Quaeda is laughing at us

      The terrorists must be very pleased at how mere fear and paranoia are doing more to undermine our civil liberties than all the terrorist crimes committed in the past and in the future. That we are doing this to ourselves must fill the terrorists with glee.
  • Yes, freak out

    Why the concern over private tech companies who have your data? All they can do is offer to sell you something.

    The government, on the other hand, has police authority at its disposal. And there is no way to know whose hands it will fall into in the future. It could be some abusive criminal of a President (take your pick) Democrat (e.g. Obama) / Republican (Bush).