CISPA heads for House vote, draws fire

Jeff Hargarten

As the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act’s journey approaches a Friday House vote, opponents are aligning against the controversial legislation.

Despite 44 privacy amendments proposed to the CISPA cyber-security bill, free speech and privacy advocates are rallying opposition against the legislation, similar to the January online protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act anti-piracy bills that were subsequently shelved by Congress.

Introduced into the House in November 2011, CISPA aims to allow the sharing of cyber-threat information between the government and technology companies. The bill is supported by more than 800 companies, including Facebook and Google, which have come under fire as a result. The bill would give companies sharing information protection from customer lawsuits.

Similarly to SOPA and PIPA, there were also a number of intellectual property provisions, which have reportedly been struck from the bill.

Democrats argue the bill should give the Department of Homeland Security more authority over private networks. President Barack Obama has also opposed the legislation and has threatened a veto.

On the flip side, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed his support of the bill Tuesday, arguing that would help the economy and protect jobs. The bill would give businesses incentives to share information on cyber-threats with the government, which in turn could share classified data with businesses. Republicans expect the bill to pass the House.

Amendments and assurances have done little to assuage the fears of advocates, who worry the bill’s language would trump existing privacy laws covering wiretapping, educational records, medical histories and more.

Reddit has been organizing a campaign to contact representatives to express opposition to the bill. The American Civil Liberties Union opposes CISPA as well, and an Avaaz petition against the bill is approaching 800,000 signatures.