CISPA Support: The Gathering of a Potent 'Evil Empire’
Apr 27, 2012
The CISPA law raises concerns over web freedom and privacy as major corporations support it, potentially enabling abuse and threats to user data.
In a style reminiscent of covert pseudo-populist dictatorships, the American Congress last night approved CISPA, a law whose stated aim is to combat cyber-piracy and attacks on private, governmental, and public networks in the United States. However, it also opens the door for Hollywood's major players and large corporations to do what they intended with the notorious SOPA, which infringed on user privacy and facilitated the fight against "piracy". CISPA is a counter-attack by corporate empires, now employing guerrilla tactics, likely learned from years of battling Al-Qaeda, to assault web freedom and neutrality. The CISPA vote was unexpected last night, leaving critics of the legislation unprepared. The battle now shifts to preventing the law's approval in the Senate or hoping for a potential veto from President Obama, which would undoubtedly carry a political cost in an election year.
Technically, the two laws are distinct. SOPA explicitly addressed the protection of intellectual property (for example, you couldn't record your music on a friend's flash drive), while CISPA concerns cybersecurity. However, both laws' texts leave ample room for abuse. For instance, SOPA could allow the record label owning Michael Jackson's rights to sue you if you posted a video on YouTube of your two-year-old son singing "Thriller". Similarly, CISPA's text discusses "information exchange about threats", but could theoretically permit Google, Facebook, Twitter, or any other company to access your private material and share its content with other companies if it represented "a threat", with the definition of "threat" varying significantly between a liberal judge in Massachusetts and a red neck judge in Alabama. Not coincidentally, CISPA also touches on intellectual property and "piracy", leaving another loophole for cunning lawyers.
The plot thickens when you see that companies like Facebook and Microsoft sent letters of complete support for the law to congressmen (see the full list of supporters). Why was Facebook against SOPA and its cousin PIPA but in favor of CISPA? Simply put, for the first two, instances of "piracy" on the companies' networks had to be monitored by them (for which they could be sued), while under CISPA, all Facebook has to do is hand over its data to the government or other companies if a judge so decides, without risk of being sued. Hence, Facebook willingly hands over its data, even with a letter of support. Notably, Google did not send any letter, as it would face greater pressure due to the law's approval - which wouldn't upset Facebook and Microsoft (who have a vested interest in the "piracy" issue) in the slightest.
The story gets even more intriguing: AT&T, Boeing, Computer Sciences Corp, Lockheed Martin, and Verizon, besides being among the companies that sent glowing letters of support to CISPA, are also on the list of donors to the campaigns of Republican Congressman Mike Rogers and Democrat Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, who, "coincidentally", are the two authors of the project that gave birth to CISPA. Nothing happens by chance. Politicians do not serve the people. They serve those who finance their campaigns. Anywhere in the world, it's the same story. Can Obama veto the law? He can, and it seems, he even wants to. But in an election year, everything has a price. And he is also a politician.
Should you worry about the passage of a law if you do not live in the United States? Yes. This type of legislation could easily be approved in other countries through "mutual agreements", especially if it serves the interests of media groups whose power far exceeds that of the established powers. What happens with your personal data is much more relevant to your life than you might suppose, if you think it's just about the trivialities that most people post on Facebook. Everything from your consumer behavior, to your thoughts, and even more concrete things like your address can be on the list of "shared" information.