The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection act (CISPA) is back. The bill was introduced and passed before the US house last spring but was defeated by the majority in Senate. The purpose of the bill is supposedly to help the U.S. government protect itself against cyber threats and ensure the security of networks against such attacks. The proposed bill would also permit private industries—such as technological and manufacturing companies—and the federal government to share Internet traffic information. Public-private partnerships are nothing new. However, CISPA’s design to improve public infrastructure in cyberspace causes a number of concerns for Internet users. Opponents of the bill argue that the federal government and private industry is entering into an agreement that hands over a user’s private Internet usage to authorities. The result of this decision may lead to a “Big Brother” type environment whereby the government has total control over people’s lives. One of the largest proponents against the controversial bill has been Republican Ron Paul who believes that CISPA will make “government spies” out of everyday sites such as Facebook and Google (Rushe, 2012).
In an attempt to push the proposed bill forward, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napoliatano has been urging congress to pass the legislative bill in order to evade a looming “cyber 9/11” attack. “We shouldn’t wait until there is a 9/11 in the cyber world. There are things we can and should be doing right now that, if not prevent, would mitigate the extent of the damage,” Napolitano said. In a post-9/11 society, the perceived threat of a lurking entity that may cause harm comparable to a terrorist attack has been a tactic to increase global security (e.g., heightened airport and border security, increased CCTV surveillance, Guantanamo Bay detention camp, etc.). And do not forget the creation of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) itself. Another advocate for the CISPA bill has been Defence Secretary Leon Panetta who warned in October that the US is facing a possible “cyber-Pearl Harbor” by foreign attackers that could “paralyze the nation.” Last year, however, the White House threatened to veto CISPA and argued that the administration “strongly opposes” the bill by arguing how “information sharing will undermine the public’s trust in the Government as well as in the Internet by undermining fundamental privacy, confidentiality, civil liberties, and consumer protections.” It will be interesting to witness how the US government positions itself this year. And it will be certain that citizens of the Internet will be responding once again against the creation of such a bill. In any case, keep an eye out for foreign cyber attacks in the news in the coming weeks (especially from Iran and China) as these countries have historically been used by the government when attempting to increase domestic security. This is not to say that legitimate threats do not exists, as they certainly do. Instead, I worry about threats that are found on the borderline between legitimacy and illegitimacy, and having governments introduce new legislation that impede human rights without having their facts straight.
White House Veto’s CISPA: