The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act,(CISPA) has once again been introduced in the House of Representatives. CISPA is a proposed law which would allow for the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and certain technology and manufacturing companies.
The original legislation introduced in 2011 by Representative Michael Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) passed the House and went no further. The bill was opposed by internet freedom and privacy groups, citing the lack of restrictions on how the internet companies and the government would share user information.
That death of the 2011 legislation was greatly exaggerated. The newly introduced legislation is no different from the bill offered in 2011. The information sharing goes both ways from government agencies to internet companies and from the companies back to the government. The new bill has industry support from both CTIA–The Wireless Association and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA). In a letter to the bill’s co-sponsor’s NCTA’s President, Michael Powell, stated,
”By removing the current legal barriers to information sharing and establishing the appropriate safeguards for the use of such information, the nation’s critical infrastructure owners and operators and others within the internet ecosystem can better protect our national security and economy.”
Opponents to the CISPA say that privacy concerns still remain in the new legislation. Those companies who share user information including private communications, with government agencies are not held accountable for the release of the user information. For instance, user information shared with the National Security Agency, (NSA) can be used by the NSA on non-cyber security grounds. Opponents go on to say that the use of this information by the NSA is in essence a end around intelligence surveillance program with little if any transparency or public accountability.
President Obama waded into the fray with the signing of an Executive Order, announced during the recent SOTU address.
There continue to be privacy issues as any user information provide to the federal government will be exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests. In this instance a user may never know that their private information has been shared under the CISPA, and will have little if any possibility of relief.