Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What is the CISPA law and why do so many U.S. citizens care about stopping it

What is the CISPA law and why do so many U.S. citizens care about stopping it, CISPA stands for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or H.R. 3523. This overwhelming law replaces and creates all cyber security laws in the U.S. It adds some controversial, even shocking measures that face opposition in the Senate and the White House. Many U.S. citizens care about stopping it. H.R. 3523 provides a law where there was none before. It allows private companies and the federal government to share information. The law seeks to stop cyber attacks on essential websites and network infrastructures. It targets groups like Anonymous, private individuals and foreign governments. The law also prevents citizens and businesses from suing businesses that share personal information. According to an April 23 ABC News article, the House passed the bill with great ease on Thursday. The president, however, threatens to veto it and the Senate is occupied with more pressing issues. This places CISPA in a form of limbo.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) were CISPA's bi-partisan sponsors. The bill was co-sponsored by a wide cross section of House members, from very liberal Anna Eshoo (D-CA) to extreme conservative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN).

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 3523 on April 18, but it faces a tough Senate test. This is because a stubborn Republican House majority refuses to accept amendments that would prevent the bill from handing poorly regulated and sweeping powers to the NSA and the military.

On the other side, U.S. citizens groups oppose the bill as a pro-business tool for handing very personal information to the government without controls or oversight. The hacker's group Anonymous sought to symbolically shut the Internet down in a protest on Monday, but the protest fizzled, according to an April 23 Huffington Post article.

The good

CISPA would protect the nation's cyber infrastructure when increasingly powerful hackers are backed by foreign governments. China was recently caught using an army unit to hack into hundreds of U.S. systems. North and South Korea have thrown frightening "cyber rampages" at each other. Cyber rampages actually destroy databases and reboot thousands of network servers and computers to make them useless.

U.S. corporations have been reluctant to hand technical and other data over to the government because they could violate antitrust laws or be sued. Ironically, the provision that would help businesses is the provision the citizens do not want.

The bill ends lawsuits and other legal roadblocks to handing technical data over to the government without going through anti-trust or classification problems. This is supposed to give the government a badly needed boost in investigating, apprehending or stopping cyber threats. Businesses have either been reluctant or they have refused to work with government after serious cyber attacks.

The bad

CISPA opens up U.S. citizen's most private online records and gives them to the federal government. This includes sensitive health and credit records that could be misused by operators within the government. This provision is why the president threatens a veto. President Obama said, "Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held accountable - and not granted immunity - for failing to safeguard personal information adequately,"

Republicans refuse to allow modifications like requiring businesses to strip credit, medical and other personal information before sending it to the government. Republicans blocked that provision with a bold claim that companies might be afraid to participate.

The ugly

CISPA gives the National Security Agency a huge role in analyzing data from private computer networks, but the bill is vague about NSA's powers. The people do not want the NSA accessing their private information without some serious definitions and restrictions.

The military can collect "threat" data directly from U.S. industries. The military is not supposed to be operating on U.S. soil and that includes collecting personal information on private citizens. Redirecting military data collection through Homeland Security is not enough to satisfy the ACLU and other opponents.

In summary

The U.S. government needs data access to help corporations and industries that face increasingly powerful hacks supported by foreign governments. Businesses will not give that information if they can be sued or go through antitrust problems. The people, however, do not trust the government or businesses to prevent accidents, mistakes or improper use of their most personal information, including their identities. Finally, CISPA hands too much ill-defined power to potential rogues and political entities within the military and government. Those entities could exploit CISPA to violate privacy and civil rights for personal, political or corporate gain. This is why we should know about the law and why U.S. citizens want to stop it.

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