Mark M. Jaycox, Kurt Opsahl, and Rainey Reitman
Yesterday, the US House prepared for the debate on the privacy-invading “cybersecurity” bill called CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. The rules committee hearing was the last stop before the bill is voted on by the full House.
In the hearing, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) was questioned about the core problems in the bill, like the broad immunity and new corporate spying powers. In response, he characterized users who oppose CISPA as “14 year olds” tweeting in a basement.
The bill may be voted on as early as Wednesday.
Here are some of the takeaways from the hearing.
Rep. Rogers Dismisses CISPA Opponents as Teenage Basement Tweeters
Of course, many people oppose CISPA — several thousand of whom tweeted at Rogers after his remark.
Internet companies like Mozilla, Reddit, NameCheap, Gandi.net, and other have also come out strong against the bill. And over 70 cybersecurity experts and academics sent a joint letter opposing CISPA last year, expressing their firm opposition to the dangers of Roger’s approach to computer security:
We have devoted our careers to building security technologies, and to protecting networks, computers, and critical infrastructure against attacks of many stripes. We take security very seriously, but we fervently believe that strong computer and network security does not require Internet users to sacrifice their privacy and civil liberties.
Earlier this week, 34 civil liberties groups sent a letter opposing CISPA in its current form.
And the newest addition to CISPA opposition? The White House, which issued a veto threat(PDF) yesterday.
Rep. Rogers Makes The Case For Why Representatives Should Vote No
First of all, of course it’s zeros and ones. That’s how information is passed in the digital environment–whether it is content or not. If Rogers is going to propose fundamentally changing privacy on the Internet, he ought to know that the contents of email are transferred with zeros and ones in patterns.
Second, if Rogers really meant this, there is an easy solution. Exclude the content of communications from the bill. Viola! Companies would not be able to transfer the content of anyone’s email under the bill, whether in the form of zeros and ones, or by carrier pigeon.
Reducing Confidence in the Internet
Rep. Rogers was not convinced, asserting this would not be a problem. He’s wrong. CISPA gives legal immunity to companies who share your information under the bill, with no exception for privacy policies or user agreements that promise to protect your privacy. Even worse, core privacy laws like the Privacy Act, Cable Communications Policy Act, the Wiretap Act, the Video Privacy Protection Act, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act will be decimated by CISPA, robbed of their power to protect you when it comes to this so-called cybersecurity sharing.
However, this amendment was not allowed to proceed to the floor for a vote.
Privacy Amendments Aren’t Allowed to Proceed For A Full House Vote
Among the amendments that will not move forward are forward-thinking proposals by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), both of whom suggested amendments that would address some of the core privacy concerns in CISPA. The first (PDF), championed by Rep. Schakowsky, would requires that the first point of sharing information with the federal government must be with a civilian agency, so that U.S. military or defense agencies won’t directly collect or receive cyber information on American citizens.
Another amendment (PDF) promoted by Rep Schiff, requires companies sharing information with the government or other private entities under the bill make “reasonable efforts” to remove personally identifiable information of individuals unrelated to the cyber threat.
At first the chairmen didn’t even allow a vote on whether or not these amendments could be presented to the full house for a vote. A vote on the amendments was held by the committee only after Democrats raised the issue.
Unfortunately, both amendments were ruled out of order – along with many others that would have addressed civil liberties issues. This means that fixing the bill through floor amendments – which was always unlikely -is now clearly impossible. EFF is urging Representatives to oppose the bill in the upcoming vote.
Say No To CISPA
CISPA will likely be up for a vote in the next 24 hours. CISPA is still riddled with problems and must be stopped. Tell your Congressmen now to say no to CISPA.
Please visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation for the latest in privacy legislation and electronic surveillance.