2-Minute Expert: How Could the CISPA Legislation Affect My Online Privacy?
CREDIT: Mesut Dogan
Internet privacy and security bills have become a big issue in recent months. In late 2011, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) attempted to expand the fight against online copyright violation and counterfeit goods by shutting down nefarious sites.
But opponents feared that it would threaten free speech without “due process” of law. In January the bill was scrapped after backlash and boycotts, such as Wikipedia and other sites taking themselves offline for a day in protest.
Critics are now deriding another bill, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA.
What is CISPA?
Introduced in November 2011, CISPA was meant to do two things: protect intellectual property and help prevent a cybersecurity attack. However, before the House of Representatives passed CISPA on April 26, it removed references to intellectual property and focused the bill entirely on cybersecurity. If the Senate passes a comparable version (a few bills are kicking around), the resulting law would allow businesses to voluntarily share information about customers or clients with the federal government. The government can use this data to investigate and prosecute any type cybersecurity crime — defined as disrupting a network or hacking.
Will CISPA affect me?
CISPA makes it much easier for the government to get detailed information about you, without having to obtain a court order. Critics say the bill violates the 4th Amendment, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure. Even if you have not committed a crime, with CISPA the government may now have access to a great amount of your personal data.
Of course, companies have to voluntarily hand over the information to the government. It can't demand it of them. While no firm has said flat out that it would volunteer user data, many with a lot of your personal information — including AT&T, Facebookand Verizon— have announced support for CISPA.
Should I be concerned about my privacy?
CISPA severely impacts the privacy many American citizens have come to expect. If this information is voluntarily submitted to the government, there will likely be no recourse to regain control of the data.
What should I do?
Whether you support or oppose CISPA is your decision. But if you'd like to affect the legislation, you should contact your senators, as the law can't take effect unless they pass a similar version. If you don't know who your Senators are, you can look them up at the Senate Web site.