The Cyber Information and Security Protection Act, also known as CISPA, became a prominent political topic in 2012 and is still on the Congressional floor as of February 2013. This bill has become a lightning rod for political activists across the political spectrum, internet rights groups, and civil liberties organizations.
CISPA is designed to help the federal government coordinate with internet service companies concerning issues of national security. Specifically, CISPA allows the federal government, such as the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense, to work with particular internet services by giving the internet companies information on particular domestic and foreign individuals or organizations. The private companies then are required to provide pertinent information related to those listed individuals or organizations to the government.
Ideally, the bill allows the private and public spheres to coordinate better against cyber-attacks, foreign and domestic terrorism, and violations to copyright, trade, and secure information. Indeed, supporters like Michigan Representative Mike Rogers, explains that private and government-backed hackers from China have stolen copyright information on hundreds of U.S. patents, resulting in trade issues. The bill has even been seen as a way to protect individuals from bodily harm, such as sexual predators preying on young people or protecting citizens from possible terrorist attacks.
However, the bill has its critics. Under current law, an internet service provider can only provide sensitive communications and information related to a person or suspect to the government when a warrant is presented. CISPA, however, changes that process, allowing the government to demand private information related to people or organizations from internet providers. Organizations ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Center for Democracy and Technology have critiqued the bill for violating the rights of individuals or groups that the government wants to monitor.
With little oversight to the government’s reasons on why government departments want this information, civil liberties groups fear CISPA provides immense powers to the government to tap into the relatively private and secure information and communications between people on the internet through various means and website crawling. Internet activists have also taken to social media, blogs, message boards, petitions, and public protests against CISPA. All of these groups and individuals share their concerns for CISPA ‘s end results leading to a curtailing of freedom of expression and speech online.
After the 2012 House of Representatives passed CISPA, the Senate debated the merits of the bill, leading to CISPA’s stalling on the Senate floor. In early 2013, the House of Representatives debated bringing CISPA back up for a vote.