Facebook Responds To CISPA CriticismBy: Chris Richardson - April 16, 2012
After Demand Progress took Facebook to task over the service’s support of CISPA, through the use of of an online petition, the social media king offered a response to quell the masses. According to their email updates, Demand Progress’ petition has reached almost 200,000 signatures, enough to get the attention of Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of his inner circle.
To address any concerns or misconceptions, Facebook posted a response that tries to salve any potential wounds, although, based on some of the statements, perhaps Joel Kaplan, Vice President of Facebook’s U.S. Public Policy, missed the point of the backlash, or at least ignored the part that could be twisted to fit anti-piracy measures:
That said, we recognize that a number of privacy and civil liberties groups have raised concerns about the bill – in particular about provisions that enable private companies to voluntarily share cyber threat data with the government. The concern is that companies will share sensitive personal information with the government in the name of protecting cybersecurity. Facebook has no intention of doing this and it is unrelated to the things we liked about HR 3523 in the first place — the additional information it would provide us about specific cyber threats to our systems and users. [Emphasis added]
Actually, that’s not what the outcry was about, at least not predominantly. Over at Digital Trends, Andrew Couts summed up the danger CISPA represents quite clearly:
CISPA is a terrible piece of legislation, one that very well could result in the government blocking access to websites on the basis of copyright infringement, or sites like Wikileaks under the guise of national security.
The reason why CISPA is a threat has to do with, among other things, the bill’s prominent mention of the phrase “intellectual property,” throughout the bill, like so: “theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.”
As far as CISPA is concerned, intellectual property theft–otherwise known as piracy–represents a threat to cybersecurity. With that in mind, the sharing of personal information is not the issue. Giving the United States government carte blanche to takedown potentially infringing sites without due process or a thorough investigation is.
Facebook’s response continues on, detailing why the company supports CISPA:
The overriding goal of any cybersecurity bill should be to protect the security of networks and private data, and we take any concerns about how legislation might negatively impact Internet users’ privacy seriously. As a result, we’ve been engaging directly with key lawmakers as well as industry and consumer groups about potential changes to the bill to help address privacy concerns.
The bill’s sponsors, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger, have stated publicly that they are working with privacy and civil liberties groups to address legitimate questions and concerns about how information might be shared with the government under the bill. They’ve made clear that the door is still open to change the bill before it comes to the House floor for consideration.
We hope that as Congress moves forward in considering this and any other cyber legislation, the result will be legislation that helps give companies like ours the tools we need to protect our systems and the security of our users’ information, while also providing those users confidence that adequate privacy safeguards are in place.
Again, it’s not solely about personal privacy. As Demand Progress puts it, it’s about:
…the new bill that would obliterate online privacy, give the military crazy new abilities to spy on the Internet, and potentially let ISPs block sites and cut off users accused of piracy.
Personal privacy, something Facebook as been problematic in protecting in the past as it is, is not the main thrust of the anti-CISPA push back.