CISPA Bill 2013: Giving Up Liberty For Security, Now Online


In the days of SOPA and PIPA, consumers mobilized and were the driving force behind the two bills failing to become law. Online privacy is important to both the public and internet companies but that privacy may be soon going away.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) amid concerns that the language of the bill does not do enough to protect privacy. Originally introduced in the previous Congress, the 2011 version passed the House with a 248-168 vote. The most recent passage saw that ratio increase to 288-127, in large part due to increased support from Democratic lawmakers in the House.

The goal of the bill, as alluded to by Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) in his opening remarks, is to stop other countries from attacking our networks and stealing our ideas. The idea is to allow collaboration between the government and the private sector to share source code so that malicious code can be used to enhance anti-virus protection. This sharing of code draws concern even after Rogers' claims that the bill "draws a very fine line between the government and the private sector" and that "it is all voluntary."  

A, "We the People," petition created in February has amassed over 116,500 signatures expressing concerns over the bill's passage stating, "CISPA is about information sharing. It creates broad legal exemptions that allow the government to share 'cyber threat intelligence' with private companies, and companies to share 'cyber threat information' with the government, for the purposes of enhancing cybersecurity. The problems arise from the definitions of these terms, especially when it comes to companies sharing data with the feds." It is worth noting the specific mention of data being shared with the government.

Further concern was expressed in an internet blackout called for by the hacktivist group Anonymous. The idea behind the internet blackout stems from the action taken in response to SOPA and PIPA, which served as the business component of the unified stance against the government infringing on internet privacy. Unlike the earlier protests, the one held Monday was not as wide spread because many of the larger companies, including some former protesters, actually support CISPA.

The bill now rests with the Senate where it will likely again fail to even be taken up but it won't be because of public outcry. With so much else going on, CISPA is low on the Senate's to do list. But as attacks become more sophisticated and detrimental to businesses already struggling to combat these hackers support will continue to grow and the emphasis on privacy may shift over to security.