Illustration by Daiana Feuer

Big Brother

Photo by Illustration by Daiana Feuer

Kill Bill: Ten Reasons CISPA Is Bad

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You’ve probably heard of CISPA – the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. It recently passed through the House and is on its way to the Senate floor.

And on the surface it sounds just lovely.

After all, its goal is to fight cyberthreats by allowing “elements of the intelligence community to share intelligence with private-sector entities.” And no one likes cyberthreats, right?

It’s sponsored by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland), so it’s bipartisan and everything bipartisan is automatically wonderful, no?

It also involves public-private partnerships, which everyone agrees are the best approach for all problems ever.

And wasn’t there something in there about sharing?

Think again. Here are our 10 reasons why CISPA is bad for your health. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, but that doesn’t mean that this issue will go away.

Big Brother is watching.

It turns AT&T into (even more of) a government spy.

AT&T complied with extra-judicial wiretapping under the Bush Administration. So this isn’t new territory. But under CISPA, Internet service providers such as Time Warner, AT&T, Verizon, etc., will be free to share your information and all your communication with government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. Can you hear me now?


Representative Polis is not happy.

According to Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, CISPA “waives every privacy law ever enacted.” And we should listen to Representative Polis – not because he’s the first openly gay parent in the House and he co-chairs the Nepal Caucus because that stuff’s not relevant. But because he consistently voted against bills that would compromise privacy and internet security, including CISPA’s predecessors SOPA and PIPA and the provisions in the PATRIOT Act that authorized roving wiretaps. 


Violations become the new normal.

We know that privacy violations happen. Like the time that Occupy Wall Street protester couldn’t prevent prosecutors from getting his tweets because the court ruled that he had no privacy interest and no legal standing to anything he posted on Twitter – it seems Twitter owns our tweets and private messages. But at least this kind of thing is viewed as the exception not the rule. Under CISPA it will be the codified.


There’s nothing you can do about it.

This new free-for-all of public-private sharing of your personal information has limited safeguards and little or no oversight. In other words – they can hear you, and you can’t do a damn thing about it. And they don’t have to tell you they were spying, so you’ll have no way of knowing, ruining any possibility for at least playing a CISPA-oriented drinking game! 


It has bipartisan support.

Yes, it’s great that the do-nothing Congress has actually agreed on something. But bipartisanship has consistently decreased our levels of privacy in the past decade (PATRIOT Act anyone?) Also, SOPA, which led Wikipedia to shut down for a day, had bipartisan support.


It has bipartisan opposition.

Let’s be real, if the ACLU and the Republican Liberty Caucus can agree to hate this bill together, it must be pretty bad.


Cybersecurity threats are everywhere and nowhere, like magic!

The definition of “cybersecurity crime” is so broad that really anything could be a “cybersecurity threat.” Watching Mad Men on Netflix all weekend? Uh oh, unusual Internet activity, must be a security threat! Madly clicking “increase bid” on eBay? Must be a cybersecurity threat!


It exploits children.

Supporters argue that the bill will help prevent child porn, but the provision is so vague that anything you do, say, or post could be construed as a threat to children – that picture of you drinking a margarita in front of your baby, for example, or that snap of your toddler taking a bubble bath. The government could do what it wanted so long as a claim could be made that some child, somewhere, may possibly be harmed at some point. 


I’m not a doctor, I just play one in Congress.

The bill places few limits on what kind of data is appropriate to siphon away. This can include your medical information, which is otherwise subject to strict regulations regarding privacy. 


Bye-bye Fourth Amendment, it was nice knowing you.

The Fourth Amendment, which protects us from “unreasonable search and seizure,” will not apply in any meaningful way online. Women are more prone to sharing information about themselves via email and, sadly, less likely to know how to encrypt their communications. And anyway, our right to privacy is established by something called “reasonable expectations.” So the more our privacy is eroded, the more we are expected to find its erosion “reasonable.” In the end, we will reasonably expect to expect nothing.

Let’s be real, if the ACLU and the Republican Liberty Caucus can agree to hate this bill together, it must be pretty bad.Kristina Brown

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