How the Newest Cybersecurity Bill Makes It Easier for the NSA to Spy On Your Online Activities

As the Internet helpfully
reminds us
, there are very few times when it is permissible to
use the prefix “cyber.” If you are William Gibson, it’s fine. If
you’re typing a dirty IM, we’ll let it pass. Notably absent from
the list of exceptions? If you’re a member of Congress trying to
make it easier for government intelligence agencies to work with
big tech corporations to spy on Americans’ online activity. But
that’s exactly what a majority of House Republicans and 42 House
Democrats did last week when they voted
248 to 168 to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection
Act (CISPA), which would make it easier for Internet companies to
provide information about their users and their networks to
government intelligence agencies. And they passed it with minimal
recognition of the very real privacy concerns critics have about
the law.

The problem with CISPA, as with so many tech-sector laws, is
that the legislative language is vague enough that it creates a big
potential loophole — in this case for domestic spies to track
individual activity. As CNet’s Declan McCullagh
, the law “wouldn’t formally grant the NSA or Homeland
security any additional surveillance authority,” but it “would
usher in a new era of information sharing between companies and
government agencies — with limited oversight and privacy

The idea behind CISPA is to facilitate corporate information
sharing between government tech spies and the corporations who run
online communications networks — which includes everything from web
portals and social networking sites like Google and Facebook to
Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Verizon.

The rationale for the law, as Cato Institute tech policy expert
(and Reason contributing editor) Julian Sanchez
points out
, is that those companies have the best access to
usage data that could be used to detect patterns that might
represent potential threats. Currently, however, those companies
are prohibited from sharing such information on an informal basis,
in part to protect these highly regulated businesses from federal
“nudges” intended to get them to “voluntarily” share informationYou can read the rest of this article at: