CISPA Advances: Do You Trust Congress With Your Privacy?

Well, that didn’t take long. The Hill reports that the House Intelligence Committee met in secret Wednesday to mark up CISPA and approve any last amendments before it made its way to the House f...
CISPA Advances: Do You Trust Congress With Your Privacy?
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  • Well, that didn’t take long. The Hill reports that the House Intelligence Committee met in secret Wednesday to mark up CISPA and approve any last amendments before it made its way to the House floor. CISPA was approved on a vote of 18-2.

    Now CISPA is heading to the House floor, but the question still remains – will CISPA protect your privacy? The amendments approved during the mark up point to a bill that’s well intentioned, but some privacy advocates still aren’t convinced. Those very same privacy advocates are now leading the fight to improve or kill what they feel is an attack on their online freedoms.

    Are you concerned about CISPA? Do you think it will pass the House? Let us know in the comments.

    The big question is whether or not the House Intelligence Committee actually improved CISPA during the mark up. There were six amendments approved, and all six were backed by the bill’s authors – Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger. The amendments talk a big game, but do they really take your privacy seriously?

    Speaking to reporters, Rogers claims that this year’s CISPA addresses all the problems privacy advocates had with the bill:

    “What we came up with, we think, is the right approach. It is the one bill out of everything you’ve seen on both sides of this great institution of the United States Congress that protects a free and open Internet and allows people to share cyber threat information to protect their clients, their business, their [personally identifiable information].”

    One of the more publicized amendments would require the government to strike any personally identifiable information from the data it receives. The same would be required of companies receiving information from the government. The problem with these seemingly well intentioned amendments, at least according to TechDirt, is that the information isn’t wiped before it reaches the government. There’s an expectation that the government will wipe any personally identifiable information from the data as soon as they receive it, but it’s hard to say when that data will be wiped. Will the government wipe the data as soon as it receives it, or will it wipe it when it’s most convenient?

    Another amendment would forbid companies from using the information it receives from the government for marketing purposes. This is definitely the most troublesome amendment only because it admits that CISPA would allow this sort of thing if left unchecked. According to the folks in Washington, CISPA is meant to combat cybersecurity. Why does the bill have to address something like marketing then? There are bigger problems with a cybersecurity bill when the kind of information it shares can be used for marketing purposes.

    Alongside the amendments, the committee also struck some language from CISPA that said the information the government receives could be used for “national security purposes.” Critics said the language was too broad, and feared that information received under CISPA would be used in criminal investigations that have nothing to do with national security.

    Despite these amendments, two members of the House Intelligence Committee still voted against CISPA. Rep. Adam Schiff threatened to vote against CISPA if his amendment wasn’t taken up, and he stayed true to his word. It’s a shame too as his amendment would have addressed a few major concerns privacy advocates have with the bill.

    Schiff’s amendment would do what Rogers’ amendment does in that it removes personally identifiable information from data the government receives from companies. The only difference is that Schiff’s bills called for an automated system that would strike the information from data before it reached the government’s hands. It’s not said why the committee didn’t go with Schiff’s amendment, but some lawmakers have already shown that they don’t trust algorithmic software.

    Even if the privacy protections actually protected users’ privacy, opponents of the bill are still sour over CISPA’s willingness to grant legal immunity to companies that share data with the government. In other words, you can’t sue a company that mishandles your information as long as that data was being used for “national security purposes.”

    Opponents are also still unhappy with the bill not explicitly stating which government agency companies must share data with. Privacy advocates think the information should be sent to a civilian agency, like the Department of Homeland Security, but there’s nothing stopping a company from sharing information with the National Security Agency, a secretive organization that has little governmental oversight and is already rumored to be illegally collecting online communications.

    Do you think the amendments approved by the House Intelligence Committee do enough to protect your privacy? Let us know in the comments.

    CISPA may have passed committee, but now the real fight begins. The first obstacle standing in its way is the rest of Washington as both the White House and Senate were opposed to CISPA last year. The Senate’s insistence on passing the doomed CSA ultimately doomed CISPA as well. Schiff is also confident that the White House will come out against the bill again:

    “I do think that the reservations that the White House has stated to the bill are still there and my expectation is that they would be appreciative of the steps that were taken, but also call for additional steps.”

    Another obstacle standing in CISPA’s way is a renewed Internet grassroots movement dedicated to making sure the bill doesn’t pass. Groups like the ACLU and EFF are leading the charge while Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian has teamed up with Fight For The Future to launch a petition aimed directly at stopping CISPA.

    Despite all of this, CISPA will probably make it past the House again. It did last year, and the 2012 elections didn’t dramatically alter the House in a way that would make its members more likely to reject the bill.

    It’s going to get really interesting, however, when the Senate reveals its own cybersecurity legislation. Will it be another bill similar to last year’s CSA or will the Senate adopt something similar to CISPA this time around? Another big question is whether or not the White House will reject it again as the Obama administration has remained quiet on the debate so far despite a White House petition calling for the death of CISPA reaching 100,000 signatures.

    Do you think CISPA has any chance of passing the Senate? Will senators better take your privacy into account? Let us know in the comments.

    [Image: EFF]

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