CISPA Update: Senate v. House

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed in the US House of Representatives by a vote of 288 – 127. As a refresher in government 101, the bill would have had to pass the Senate and get President Obama’s signature before it could become a law. To update, in a nutshell the case is closed. For now. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate decided that the issue wasn’t worthy of a vote — and even if the Senate had passed the Act President Obama had repeatedly threatened to veto on the Act on civil liberties grounds.

CISPA and Internet PrivacyDespite having failed, has not come to a point of full closure. As we’ve noted on this site before yesterday’s Senate (in)action, not everyone objects to CISPA: TechNet — the computer industry lobby group, which has high-powered firms such as Apple, Google and Yahoo as members — is a strong advocate. They believe private companies will be able to assist by providing information to the government. Opponents see CISPA as ‘SOPA 2.0′ given that CISPA is postured as second attempt at strengthening digital piracy laws after the Stop Online Piracy Act met huge opposition. The Stop Online Piracy Act, had it passed, would have allowed the government and various corporations to censor the internet, and SOPA’s more stringent cousin, ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which was an agreement to create global intellectual property (IP) enforcement standards that reach far beyond current international laws but would have had the effect of killing innovation and shutting down entire websites. All of it opens the door to around-the-clock monitoring of the lives of private citizens by both the government and the companies that are paid to provide Internet access services to consumers.

With such strong advocacy for CISPA or some form of it, the issue is not completely dismissed. Toward that end, the contentious cyber security bill is being rewritten with provisions that should make up for CISPA’s deficiencies. The chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV),  said that CISPA’s privacy protections are “insufficient.” At this point, the Senate Intelligence Committee will prepare a bipartisan information sharing bill before proceeding to the subsequent step of gaining broader support in the Senate.

Stay tuned; with cyber attacks becoming a greater threat to national security, and the need to balance the privacy of citizens being an ever-present concern, this issue has a long way to go before it’s resolved.