As far as Internet blackouts go, the one today in protest of CISPA pales in comparison to last year’s widespread protests against SOPA. That’s a lot of alphabet soup, but it’s easy to spell out why things are different this time around: The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act — which calls for greater cooperation between businesses and the government and was passed the House last week — is backed by much of the tech industry, while the Hollywood-backed Stop Internet Piracy Act was opposed by big companies such as Google.
Still, the push against CISPA is underway, with those pushing the blackout hoping to defeat the legislation just like protesters against SOPA did. About 400 websites have gone dark or pledged to go dark today, according to a site by the Anonymous hacktivist group. As we’ve written lately, advocacy groups such as the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with the Obama administration, have expressed concerns about the proposed bill. Those concerns include inadequate privacy protections for user data that may be shared with the government, plus broad immunity for companies when they share user data with the government in the name of cybersecurity. Last year, CISPA failed because of a White House veto threat.
In addition, Larry Magid reports that House members have written a letter to their colleagues listing the “major shortcomings” with CISPA, which include the aforementioned privacy and immunity concerns, plus the worry that companies would share information directly with the National Security Agency. (The EFF has a list of all the government agencies that could get a hold of companies’ user data under CISPA.)
Speaking of lists, here’s a list of CISPA supporters. It includes many big companies (with lots of money, all the better to lobby with) that collect our personal information, from wireless service providers to Microsoft and Oracle and many other tech companies that belong to associations that support the bill. And yes, Google and Apple and Facebook, belong to TechNet, the trade group that recently expressed support for CISPA even as it acknowledged the privacy concerns surrounding it: “We look forward to continuing the dialogue with you and your colleagues on further privacy protections, including discussions on the role of a civilian interface for information sharing,” wrote TechNet CEO Ray Ramsey to the House Intelligence Panel a couple of weeks ago, according to the Hillicon Valley blog. One big name in the tech world that has spoken out against CISPA is Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser.
The CISPA action comes amid other privacy-related legislation and concerns. Among them: The Right to Know Act, a California bill that would require companies to tell users about information collected and shared about them if asked. Tech companies oppose it, as Bay Area News Group’s Steve Harmon wrote over the weekend. And as Politico and others have written, the Big Brother debate is alive and well after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Screen grab from EFF website