Op-Ed: Threats to online privacy rise as CISPA to be reintroduced

Posted Feb 13, 2013 by Ken Hanly
Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan and Sen. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from California, intend to reintroduce the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a bill that critics claim threatens Internet privacy.
A cartoon poking fun at the CISPA bill
A cartoon poking fun at the CISPA bill
Donkey Hotey
Legislation that is likely to infringe upon privacy rights and allow for more information gathering and sharing by government and corporations never seems to die. Some time back the government tried to pass SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. This was presented as simply a means by which to protect copyright, which supposedly would encourage entrepreneurship and more jobs for Americans. Acts that violate liberties are always promoted in terms of positive values. Some opponents also fear that requiring search engines to delete domain names could give rise to a global censorship race. In January of last year the House Judiciary Committee postponed plans to draft the bill after widespread opposition. However, the chairman said: "The committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation ... The House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution."
Perhaps this bill will return as well. CISPA had passed the House of Representatives early last year but did not pass through the Senate. President Obama was opposed to the bill and said he would veto it if it did pass. In April of 2012 the Office of Management and Budget Office of the President that strongly opposed CISPA and recommended that Obama veto it.
CISPA would set up a system by which entities in the private sector could share cyberthreat information with an agency run by the government. This sharing of information is now being called by many, a national security necessity as cyber threats increase. With this bill threats to privacy are justified not just by intellectual property considerations but by national security considerations as well. Increased cyber threats may tilt the balance in favor of CISPA when it is reintroduced.
Obama has already moved through an executive order to establish a framework that will help protect critical infrastructure: “Earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs and our privacy. Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks”
Obama has increasingly worked around Congress through executive orders leading some critics to claim that he not only is bypassing Congress but the constitution as well. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas tweeted.“Obama's increasing reliance on executive orders to push policy and skirt congressional deliberation is worrisome.”
However, the two main CISPA promoters were pleased by Obama's announcement since they thought that Obama's remarks showed support for the type of legislation they were advancing. Representative Rogers claimed that there were increasing threats from China designed to steal American intellectual property. This goes back to SOPA justifications. Rogers said:“It is time to stop admiring this problem and deal with it immediately. Congress urgently needs to pass our cyber threat information sharing bill to protect our national security, our economy and US jobs.”
Critics claim that CISPA would put off-the-record conversations online and would have serious repercussions for personal privacy. The bill is opposed by the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation among others. Another battle is brewing against attempts to invade privacy and regulate the Internet. It remains to be seen which side Obama will be on this time around.