CISPA rears its ugly head again, threatens Internet privacy

It's been almost a year since the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) brouhaha blew over, and it has been all quiet on the Internet privacy front for some time now. But privacy advocates now have a new threat to face - the reintroduction of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in the House of Representatives.

CISPA's stated goal is to ensure the security of US networks and infrastructure against cyber threats by facilitating the sharing of information between private entities and public entities, such as the CIA and NSA. Whether that would be done with respect to the privacy of US citizens, or whether the measure would actually be effective in bolstering cybersecurity, is unsure.

The ACLU has brought this matter to the attention of its members, and the technology press has responded as well. When CISPA was originally introduced, outcry over it's far-reaching implications and lack of privacy safeguards led President Obama to effectively kill the legislation with a veto threat (pdf).

But this time around, it's not entirely certain what form the bill will take. President Obama's hardline stance is not entirely certain either. High profile hacking incidents are sure to be fresh on lawmakers' minds, such as the "Operation Last Resort" hack by Anonymous on federal websites and the Twitter breach earlier this month. Obama also has a distinct lack of electoral pressure this time around, for whatever that's worth.

Internet privacy advocates, as well as Internet giants Google, Twitter, and Facebook will surely be following the bill closely when it is reintroduced this week. Free speech advocates and those concerned with government overreach should be paying attention as well; the reintroduction of CISPA comes on the heels of President Obama signing a 5 year extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) into law. Obama's signature gives the continued support of the President to a warrantless wiretapping program which, among other things, "makes copies of all emails web browsing and other Internet traffic to and from AT&T customers and provides those copies to the NSA."

If you are concerned at all about excessive (and arguably illegal) government surveillance on the Internet, I recommend you pay attention to the progress of CISPA very closely.

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