CISPA Protests Inspire “Stop Cyber Spying Week”April 16, 2012 4:40 pm ·
You’ve heard of SOPA Blackout Day. Well get ready for Stop Cyber Spying Week. After catching drift of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, Internet advocacy groups sprung into action this week to express outrage at this latest attempt by Congress to flout due process in its crackdown on suspected copyright offenders.
Spearheaded by well-known civil liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this week of action is aimed specifically at informing the public about CISPA and equipping them with the necessary means to make their voices heard. Forms of protest include a Twitter-based thread united by hashtags #CongressTMI and #CISPA, as well as letters of opposition and articles addressing specific civil liberties concerns about the language of the bill.
“Freedom of expression and the protection of online privacy are increasingly under threat in democratic countries, where a series of bills and draft laws is sacrificing them in the interests of national security or copyright,” argued Reporters Without Borders. “A blanked monitoring system is never an appropriate solution.”
CISPA: In Brief
For those who haven’t been following the situation since it broke a couple weeks ago, CISPA (H.R. 3523) is a legislative initiative aimed at amending the National Security Act of 1947, specifically by “add[ing] provisions concerning cyber threat intelligence and information gathering,” according to the bill’s official summary. As I noted in my original reaction to CISPA, the addition of this language is particularly concerning due to the disturbingly broad definition that is given to the term “cyber threat intelligence,” which the bill defines as follows (emphasis added):
Defines “cyber threat intelligence” as information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of a system or network from: (1) efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network; or (2) theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.
This is significant not only because of its implications with regard to copyright enforcement but also its potential impact on would-be whistleblowers hoping to maintain lawful and ethical behavior in government as well as private institutions. By placing these issues under the care of the ultra-secretive National Security Agency and the powers given it by the 1947 act, those deemed by the agency to be in possession of such “cyber threat intelligence” run the risk of something far more serious than having their websites shut down without so much as a court appearance. Taking it a step past the punitive measures that would have been employed by SOPA—whose death was officially announced just last week—CISPA threatens to label suspected offenders as national security threats.
CISPA: How You Can Help Stop It
Sponsored by a bipartisan pair of Congressmen—Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Rep. C.A. Ruppersberger (D-MD)—CISPA is currently scheduled to go to the House floor for a vote next week. So time is in short supply. However, there is still plenty that those of us who oppose the bill can do to make our voices heard.
Although there will be no SOPA-style blackouts this time around, the consortium of rights groups behind Stop Cyber Spying Week have accumulated a number of avenues—both creative and traditional—to make sure that representatives can be reached by their constituents. In general, all methods are geared toward calling on Congress to reject legislation that:
- Contains dangerously vague language to define the range of information that can be shared with the government.
- Transfers cybersecurity responsibilities to a clandestine, minimally accountable agency like the NSA.
- Permits the use of information shared with the government for non-cybersecurity purposes.
More specifically, people are encouraged to find their representative’s Twitter username and then send them a message containing either the #CongressTMI or #CISPA hashtag. The ACLU suggested the following sample tweets:
- .@MyRepresentative Does the military need to know I send my Mom lolcat pictures? #CongressTMI Stop #CISPA
- .@MyRepresentative Does the NSA need to know I watch Netflix from my work computer? #CongressTMI Stop #CISPA
- .@MyRepresentative, I get lab and test results from my Dr online. Please don’t give the govt access too! #CongressTMI Stop #CISPA
Meanwhile, after releasing a new “discussion draft” of the bill, the House Intelligence Committee alleged in a tweet that “[n]othing in CISPA provides any authorities requiring companies to take content off the Internet or to stop access to websites.” However, given that shutting down websites was secondary compared to concerns about the bill’s broad language regarding information sharing—not to mention the possibility of being labeled a national security threat—advocacy groups have remained steadfast in their opposition of CISPA.
Calling it “bad cybersecurity legislation,” the EFF’s Rebecca Jeschke maintained, “We want Congress to reject legislation that uses dangerously vague language to define the breadth of data that can be shared with the government, [and] hands the reins of America’s cybersecurity defenses to the National Security Agency.”
What’s your stance on CISPA? Share your thoughts and concerns in the comments below.
For more CISPA coverage . . .
- Facebook Defends Support for Cybersecurity Bill CISPA (mashable.com)
- Cybersecurity Bill FAQ: The Disturbing Privacy Dangers in CISPA and How To Stop It (eff.org)
- SOPA Part II: New Cyber Intelligence Bill Threatens To Label Alleged Infringers As National Security Threats (experts-exchange.com)
- Civil Liberties Organizations Launch Protests Against CISPA (usnews.com)