CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, passed the House of Representatives yesterday. The bill is designed to foster intelligence sharing between companies in order to help prevent cyber attacks.
Right now, companies are unwilling to share information because they believe that it would get them into trouble with the law. CISPA would rid them of civil and criminal liability that may be a result of this data sharing.
In theory, this is a good idea: hacking could possibly becomes our nation's biggest national security threat. But in practice, this could mean that personal information you have stored with one company or group could wind up in the hands of another company or the government.
The bill does forbid the use by officials of personal information from medical records, tax returns and a list of other documents. But its critics say it would be far better if companies had to excise such data before sharing what is left. They also note that the broad legal protection CISPA offers to firms could be abused by companies keen to cover up mishaps in their handling of customer data. A more carefully worded legal indemnity would stop that happening.
All this has exposed a rift in the internet world. Whereas Mozilla and other firms want CISPA to be overhauled or scrapped, some web firms that helped sink SOPA seem ambivalent. Google claims it has taken no formal position on the draft legislation and is “watching the process closely”. But TechNet, an industry group whose members include the web giant and Facebook, has written to the House Intelligence Committee expressing support for CISPA. If Google and other web companies do have doubts about some of the bill’s provisions, now would be the time for them to sound the alarm.
Other popular tech groups such as Reddit, the popular internet relay chat site, have come out strongly opposed to CISPA and are dissappointed that giants Google and Facebook have not done the same.
President Obama has signaled that he would not be opposed to vetoing CISPA, should it come to his desk.