The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed 288 to 127 in the House of Representatives on April 18, 2013 and now faces the Senate.
CISPA is meant to enhance national security by allowing for the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and private companies. This means companies such as Facebook, Google, cell service providers and more would be able to hand over public, personal data to the U.S. government for whatever purpose it deems necessary. The backlash against the passage of the act in the House has already led privacy groups to protest the act as it now faces the Senate.
This isn’t the first time that CISPA has faced Congress. Representative Michael Rogers, Republican of Michigan, first introduced the act in November of 2011. It was passed in the House of Representatives on April 26, 2012, but failed in the Senate because of the public criticism and recoil. Representative Rogers reintroduced the act in the House in February of 2013, which has led it to its current fight up against Congress.
How does CISPA affect the public to cause such a backlash? Since CISPA allows an increase in the flow of information to the government, it may make people more vulnerable to strangers accessing personal information. It also weakens the power of the fourth amendment, which gives people the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, except upon probable cause. By providing a sharing of information between firms and the U.S. government for whatever reason deemed necessary, CISPA essentially negates the power of the fourth amendment. While Representative Rogers defends the act by encouraging its benefits for national defense, he hasn’t discussed the civil liberties or freedoms that the act infringes on or the increased possibilities of identity theft or fraud.
Although there seems to be a lot to worry about if CISPA does pass, it must be noted that CISPA is no closer to passage than it was last year. In 2012, the proposal failed in the Senate, which could possibly happen again. Even if CISPA does pass in the Senate, the Obama Administration has been very outspoken against the act. The Administration has said that they “[seek] additional improvements and if the bill, as currently crafted, were presented to the President, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.” Without the President’s support, the ultimate ratification of the act is unlikely.
Ultimately, while CISPA poses privacy threats to the people, it is unlikely that the act will pass overall considering the vast amount of hostile responses that the act has received from the public.