Thursday, May 3, 2012

Response to CISPA lags

New Internet law fails to gain SOPA’s opposition

By Thomas Haines, Opinion Columnist

Early in the year, many popular websites put up versions of what their sites would look like if SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, or PIPA, the Protect-IP Act, were to pass through Congress.

This online protest brought more than 4.5 million signatures to a petition to Congress fighting the passing of both acts.

The protest brought so much unwanted attention that, in response, the acts were killed in committees.

However, now the House of Representatives has passed a similar act, called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA.

The act amends the National Security Act of 1947. It would add provisions pertaining to cybercrime, which did not exist at the time of the writing of the act.

The bill updates the definition of a cyber threat as a “theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property or personally identifiable information.”

Now, while I support the idea of having provisions against those who steal governmental and private information, the problem within the bill resides in how it is written.

The three biggest concerns relating to this new act are that it provides a huge expansion of government power, essentially creating a legal channel for spying on its own population.

It also lacks any sort of privacy controls, so that any and all information can and will be disclosed to the authorities should the bill pass in its current form.

Finally, there are no safeguards put into place that would guarantee this bill won’t be used and abused by those with the authority to use the power it grants.

With no meaningful oversight or accountability for either the private companies or the government, there exists a real possibility that the information shared with the government will be improperly used against upstanding citizens who have not committed any crimes.

If passed, this bill would be the first step toward a heavily censored Internet.

The barrier between the government and your Internet privacy would fade away and the Internet would no longer be the wonderful sharing communication tool that it is today.

Thomas Haines is a junior at Pacific Lutheran University studying history. He is the vice president of the PLU Democrats and secretary for the PLU Secular Student Alliance.