Round and round we go, and where we stop, nobody knows.
For the second year in a row, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (a.k.a CISPA) has passed the US House of Representatives. Last year the Bill never made it through the US Senate, possibly because it was under threat of a presidential veto, possibly because of the fairly vocal internet uproar about the Bill’s many flaws.
At present the US Senate is not looking at voting on it anytime soon. CISPA’s authors say that most of the concerns for personal privacy have been addressed in amendments to the new version. Others are not so sure of this, and indeed, President Obama has restated his determination to veto the Bill.
So what exactly is CISPA, and what does it mean for bloggers (and writers)? This short piece by PC Magazine does a nice job of summarizing many features of the Bill. I’ll let you read up on the details and make your own opinions.
For me, the biggest issue with CISPA isn’t privacy. The information that would be shared with the government is nothing that they cannot attain already by following due process. It’s that due process part that is this issue.
CISPA takes due process and tosses it out the window…effectively.
If you look at this list of agencies that will be able to gain access to your information if CISPA passes, do you have the same questions I do about it? As in “why do these agencies need information to protect us against cyber-attacks from China and Iran?” (Bill proponent Mike Rogers’s (R-MI) words, not mine), among others.
The Bill has been amended so that companies who share information can “anonymize” (yes, I know that’s not a word) data, but there is no real requirement that it be done. Indeed, companies that just share it all are exempt from legal repercussions for any violate of the Terms of Service/User Agreements their users have agreed to. As “Time is money” often rules the corporate sector, why would a company invest extra time in safeguarding private data when it gives them little to no extra again?
And speaking of money, let’s look at a newer amendment to CISPA. Presumably to ease fears that corporations who have shared data with the government won’t be fully nullifying their Terms of Service and User Agreement contracts with customers, there is now a fine imposed for any other use of this information beyond protection of a cyber-attack. But how big of a fine? A look at the recent case where the Google StreetView car accidentally collected personal data (email addresses, passwords, URLs, etc.) as they drove down streets in Hamburg, Germany shows that fines are basically trivial. In the Google case, it was an accident, and they fully admitted the problem, but when any company can make up the loss of a fine in less than an hour of business (or as [again] in the Google case, 4 seconds), violations can become more profitable than following the law.
Why am I suddenly picturing a Steven Segal movie now?
Sorry. This isn’t supposed to be me fear-mongering or promoting conspiracy theories to you. There are plenty of enough sites out there to do that. But I do suggest you look up CISPA on your own and see what you think of it. And try to consider this when you do–most people who go into public service do so because they really do want to help make the world a better place (especially those in the lower strata of politics). The problems we see in politics usually aren’t the result malicious intent or a wish to harm anyone. It’s solely a matter of a better place for whom, and how determined are some people to promote their vision of better.
As you can see, I’ve been occupied with reading lately. Reading law wears on me; it’s hard to believe that I wanted to be a lawyer in high school (or that went out of my way to volunteer at a law library in college).
Thing is, one needs to know how to read these documents, because legalese is everywhere and just saying “I agree” can have its drawbacks (you may want to read the comic thread… or the whole comic–Userfriendly makes the ins and outs of IT fun).
Still, I managed an awesome evening of writing and editing last night (turned off the internet distractions and just worked). I wrote some wonderful notes on Monday and got all my comments done for both my sponsor posts (including my sponsor post–complete with formatting errors–on the Round of Words in 80 Days blog) and on several others blogs.
I was a busy blogger this week. Facebook, Google + and Twitter kind of fell by the wayside, and truthfully, I feel better for it. Less and less of the time, I feel inspired to hang out online. The exception? I may resume my reddit hour or so–there is a lot of discussion about current events there and keeping up better would be nice.
So that’s my week. Hope you all are enjoying your ROW80 journey. Here’s the new linky. Go ahead and visit a few more of us. We love to hear from you.
Photo credit: me (images from my Flickr feed)
- Terms & Conditions: Congress has privacy policies in its sights with CISPA (digitaltrends.com)
- CISPA, the Fourth Amendment and you (news.yahoo.com)
- Cybersecurity Bill Allows Employers To Seize Employee Facebook Passwords… Wait, What? (abovethelaw.com)