Microsoft has change of heart about CISPA — drops support

Posted Apr 28, 2012 by Anne Sewell
Microsoft has decided not to back CISPA citing consumer privacy concerns. One of the major corporate supporters of the draconian bill backs down.
Microsoft Chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates.
Microsoft Chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates.
One of the biggest worries on the minds of activists against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was the number of large internet corporations who are supporting the bill.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill on Thursday by a huge margin of 248 to 168.
Now one of the biggest has changed its mind - Microsoft says that any new law must allow them “to honor privacy promises” that they make to their customers. The company further said that it hopes to "ensure the final legislation helps to tackle the real threat of cybercrime while protecting consumer privacy." In its current form, CISPA does not protect the privacy of consumers.
According to Cnet, Microsoft's feelings on the controversial bill are similar to that of U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama has threatened to veto the bill when it reaches the Senate and the White House would prefer measures that protect individuals from companies who wish to share their information with the government or with other companies.
The White House also feels that CISPA would treat domestic cyber security on the same level as national security, by calling on the National Security Agency to handle the situation.
It was intended that CISPA amends the National Security Act of 1947 in order to facilitate the sharing of "cyber security intelligence" between the government and private sector and also private companies.
However, in the wording of the bill, "Cyber threat intelligence" has been very loosely defined as efforts to "degrade, disrupt or destroy" Government owned systems or networks and those of U.S. corporations.
CISPA also wishes to counter the misuse and theft of government or private information, including intellectual property.
The bill takes away any legal liability on the part of private companies who collect and share information.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation describes this as a “backdoor wiretap into our daily communications.”
As reported on Digital Journal, Ron Paul recently spoke out against CISPA saying that the bill creates a broadly based notion of what information can be shared and that it then allows the government to use that information in any way it wishes. Paul described CISPA as "Big Brother writ large."
In a recent interview, Software freedom activist, Richard Stallman told RT that CISPA undermines the constitution of the U.S.A. by nearly abolishing “people’s right not to be unreasonably searched.”
“If you store any data in a U.S. company, that company – with few exceptions – is legally required to hand that data over to U.S. government without even a search warrant, so I think both individuals and governments should take precautions to make sure that their citizens’ data is not being handed over to U.S. companies or their foreign subsidiaries, which are also subject to that same hypocritically named Patriot Act," he warned.
Part of the bill which makes it so controversial is a section that says, "notwithstanding any other provision of law," companies and corporations can share information with Homeland Security, the NSA, the IRS or other governmental agencies. The drafters of the bill intended that their legislation should trump all existing state and federal laws up to and including the ones that deal with educational records, medical privacy, wire taps etc.
Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat and former web entrepreneur, said during the debate that CISPA would "waive every single privacy law ever enacted in the name of cybersecurity."
However sponsors of the bill feel it necessary for cybersecurity to allow Homeland Security and NSA to have access with information from the private sector.
On hearing of Microsoft's withdrawal of support Dan Auerbach, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said: "We're excited to hear that Microsoft has acknowledged the serious privacy faults in CISPA. We hope that other companies will realize this is bad for users and also bad for companies who may be coerced into sharing information with the government."