The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is a bill that would allow private companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google to share user information with the federal government without a warrant. To many this seems like complete breach of privacy but in reality it could soon be law. On Thursday US House of Representatives approved CISPA , but it is still unclear how the senate will vote.
So, what exactly does the government get to see and why do they want to see it in the first place? To answer the first question, CISPA allows the government to ask communication providers like Facebook or Twitter to provide personal information if they think it pertains to a cyber security attack. Facebook and Twitter could also give information to the government if they notice suspicious behavior on their sites. The problem is that the wording of CISPA is very vague and as a result many privacy activists feel that it gives the government power to see way too much. According the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the bill is worded so that communications providers could share anyone’s emails, text messages, or files stored on clouds with the government. This gives communication providers a lot of power since they are the ones who ultimately choose what the government gets.
However, those in support of the bill maintain that CISPA is necessary to protect national cyber security, especially because they believe that cyber attacks from countries like China and Iran are becoming more likely. The author of the bill, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) says that “this is not a surveillance bill,” meaning that the goal of the bill is not for the government to monitor domestic social networks but rather for the government to respond more quickly to potential cyber security threats.
Currently, President Obama is prepared to veto the bill unless some significant changes are made. He is worried that this bill oversteps civilian privacy rights too. I personally think that communication providers should be allowed to share information with the government but only if they have some sort of evidence. Just like I wouldn’t want the police barging into my house without a warrant, I don’t want the government to have access to all of my most personal emails and texts without cause.