CISPA, the controversial legislation (cyber spying bill) that would create an information exchange for private corporations (big business) and government, passed the House Thursday night. It now heads to the Senate.
The vote breakdown was 248-168 in the GOP-controlled House, with more Republicans supporting the bill than Democrats; although Ron Paul was a very public opponent. President Obama has threatened to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.
The bill, which is widely supported by business interests, is said to be essential (mostly by businesses and GOP legislators) to cybersecurity. However, opponents such as EFF, ACLU and the Center for Democracy and Technology believe it does not do enough to safeguard user data from potential government abuse. It has also been described as a back-door bill to do what SOPA and PIPA could not, namely: empower government and corporations in the fight against online piracy.
“CISPA goes too far for little reason,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU legislative counsel. “Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”
The most troublesome aspect of the House version of CISPA is that the information exchange was actually enhanced with an 11th hour amendment. As Forbes’ Andy Greenberg notes:
But even before it passed, the House voted to amend the bill to actually allow even more types of private sector information to be shared with government agencies, not merely in matters of cybersecurity or national security, but in the investigation of vaguely defined cybersecurity “crimes,” “protection of individuals the danger of death or serious bodily harm,” and cases where that involve the protection of minors from exploitation.
With the Democratic majority in the Senate, it’s possible that the bill will wither on the vine, or, at the very least, be passed with provisions that would protect online privacy. And if it were to quickly pass the Senate, Obama—if he is a man of his word—would veto it.
At any rate, now is the time to ramp up opposition to CISPA to a critical mass.