Remember the uproar over SOPA a few months ago? Don’t look now, but there’s another bill currently being debated in the House of Representatives that some people are calling the next SOPA.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the cyber-security legislation Friday, despite claims from privacy groups and technology experts.

If you don’t remember SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), it was a bill which allowed the government and corporations to look for any possible copyright violation on the Internet and shut down offending websites without any court oversight. Also, it made the owners of websites responsible for all the content on their sites, including user comments.

SOPA was an overly broad law that received almost universal condemnation from Internet activists, technology companies, and privacy advocates. Luckily, the backlash worked and the bill was never brought to a vote.

But now it looks like CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) is the next Internet legislation that will be hotly debated in Washington and around the country.

In a nutshell, CISPA allows private businesses and the government to share information about cyberthreats, including the misappropriation of information and intellectual property. CISPA also allows third-party security firms to identify cyberthreats to protect their client’s property. These firms can share this information with other businesses and the government.

So what’s the problem with this bill?

The Center for Democracy and Technology says that “CISPA has a very broad, almost unlimited definition of the information that can be shared with government agencies and it supersedes all other privacy laws.”

The ACLU issued a statement saying “Beyond the potential for massive data collection authorization, the bill would provide no meaningful oversight of, or accountability for, the use of these new information-sharing authorities.”

Corporations like Facebook could share information about their users with other companies and the government as long as it met a broad definition of being a cybersecurity threat. That data could then be used by the other firms or the government for nearly any end, from surveillance to selling products.

The problem with CISPA is that, like SOPA, it is worded so broadly that Internet Service Providers and companies like Google and Facebook could intercept your online activities and give them to the government as long as they say it’s related to cybersecurity.

Unlike SOPA, CISPA is backed by over 100 co-sponsors in Congress as well as powerful Silicon Valley giants like Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, and Verizon.

As of right now, CISPA looks like it will pass in the House. However, the Obama Administration has come out against the bill, and it’s unclear if it will pass the Senate.

A letter sent to lead sponsors of the bill from the American Conservative Union, Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Liberty Coalition and more, lay out all the many ways CISPA is bad for privacy from its failure to protect sensitive information to its lack of strict government oversight.

What do you think about this bill? Do you think it undermines our online privacy, or do you support it?


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Jared Howe

Jared Howe is PRIVATE WiFi’s Senior Manager, Product Marketing Communications. Working in high tech for over 15 years, Jared currently lives in Seattle with his wife, daughter, and their two cats.

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