Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 96.7 FM . The opinions stated in this article are solely hers and not those of St. George News.
OPINION –If you want to pass a bill that gives you more power, keep changing the reason that the bill exists and the problem it claims to solve; and with a lot of persistence, it will pass. Say the word “security” and the bill is sure to sail through the waters of Congress.
The bill referred to as CISPA, introduced by Mike Rogers, R-Mich., on November 30, 2011, passed the U.S. House of Representatives on April 26, 2012 amended, with a bi-partisan vote of 248-168*; it is headed to the Senate for a vote.
What is CISPA?
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is a cyber security bill that pertains to the protection of a system or network from: (1) efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network; or (2) theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.
It will, according to Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, R-Md., in his blog on April 27, help U.S. companies protect themselves from dangerous economic predators.
The critics say this bill allows the government more power to control the flow of information on the Internet.
How will the government protect you from these “dangerous economic predators?” They are “hiring” popular companies to do it for them.
Approved companies like Facebook, Intel, Verizon and Google can look at any personal information that their site gathers about you and, under the direction of the government, can analyze it on a regular basis. If these companies see anything that may seem suspicious or questionable, they may share it with the government to inhibit any cyberspace attacks from hackers or terrorists. Personal information that may be shared can include your email, financial information, and work history, among other things.
Although the bill prohibits the federal government from using information pertaining to library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, book customer lists, firearms sales records, tax return records, educational records and medical records, skeptics fear that the government’s receipt or possession of that privileged information could nevertheless be used against them – particularly if they are identified as potentially terrorist.
Ruppersberger, one of the architects of this bill, said:
“This is victory for America. Our nation is one step closer to making a real difference protecting our country from a catastrophic cyber attack.”
Ruppersberger also said he has been losing sleep over the possibility of more terrorist attacks and deviant hackers.
My answer to those statements is that people are more apt to pass a bill in the name of security without looking at the future ramifications or problems that the same bill can germinate.
Are we trading freedom for security?
CISPA focuses on threats from terrorism and hackers that can infiltrate our computer systems here in the United States. Some systems that hackers can invade include waterways, communication, roadways and nuclear facilities. Computer systems seem to control everything; as our world is becoming more and more dependent on centralized computers, it seems reasonable to want the safety that this bill proposes.
But we already have safeguards in place.
We already have over 20 government agencies that regulate and control the information on the Internet in the name of security. We also have the Patriot Act, which gives the government very broad access to our information and the ability to search without a warrant. Government involvement and regulation is already present and accounted for.
Is CISPA necessary?
At the start of this year, Wikipedia went dark for a day online to protest the possible passing of the Stop Internet Piracy Act and the PROTECT Intellectual Properties Act, also known as SOPA. SOPA was a bill that would have given the government the right to shut down any site that possessed information that could be deemed copyright infringement.
Online sites need only to be accused of wrongdoing and the government will have the ability, under Acts like these, to intervene.
CISPA“(a)uthorizes the Attorney General to seek a court order against a U.S.-directed foreign Internet site committing or facilitating online piracy … to cease and desist further activities constituting specified intellectual property offenses under the federal criminal code including criminal copyright infringement, unauthorized fixation and trafficking of sound recordings or videos of live musical performances, the recording of exhibited motion pictures, or trafficking in counterfeit labels, goods, or services.”
Due process of law may apply, but it can take a long time until the government proves the site and its owners guilty; imagine the consequence to the business if the government cannot make its case?
Yet, these same businesses – which may share information and have information shared with them – support CISPA but protested SOPA successfully. The SOPA bill was not passed, it did not even make it out of Committee.
Is CISPA better than SOPA?
Companies like Wikipedia and Facebook have not been protesting CISPA as they did SOPA. Is it because this bill is better? No. In fact, some critics speculate that these companies stand to profit from CISPA, because as these companies get to analyze our personal messages and information regularly as a new “employee” of the government “spying” on us, they may manage to profit from our information by marketing and selling more products to us. SOPA stood to destroy businesses by taking away their ability to do business online.
Many fear that CISPA rewards these “approved” companies for intercepting information and handing it to the government.
Never mind that CISPA includes some limitations on what the parties privy to the shared personal information can do with it, it is a a gateway to more laws that will be more overreaching as invasion of online privacy erodes.
Although the bill restricts participants from utilizing the information for unfair competition, their access and ability to see so much personal data opens the door for error and abuse.
Are there alternative solutions to protecting Internet freedom?
The Internet is arguably the greatest freedom that we have right now and is still the hub of free flowing information. Our ability to communicate with each other and our freedom of speech is evident on the World Wide Web.
The government cannot shut down a site because it does not like the content. Yet, is the freedom of speech on the Internet in jeopardy?
He who controls the flow of information, controls the world. There are currently four other bills trying to pass through the Senate right now; all with elements of government control over the Internet.
Why is the government the only solution to cyberspace security problems? Why not bolster up the private sector’s own company security systems to prevent possible attacks?
Facebook has built a system that allows hundreds of millions of users to simultaneously update status reports every five seconds and allow users to water large amounts of fake crops on Farmville; do we honestly think they do not have the capacity or ability to keep their website secure? My little credit union has more security checkpoints to it than gaining access to the Pentagon as an illegal drug lord. I am extremely confident that the private sector can succeed without the government’s involvement.
The government is supposed to have limited powers. Why does it have a hand in the Internet at all? None of the Founding Fathers’ documents of this nation gives the government any control over our communications – just the ability to have a right to demonstrate free speech according to the first amendment of the Constitution. If our information or private emails can incriminate us in any way because of CISPA, will this impede our rights under the First Amendment?
The government is finally succeeding at getting an Internet information bill passed with Congress’s stamp of approval. SOPA was unpopular because businesses protested its effects on profitability. Change the reason and the name of the bill, and suddenly, the outcry turns into support.
CISPA is a nail in the coffin of freedom of the Internet. The passing of these bills makes us less free – not more secure.
Will articles like this one cease to exist because someone will view this information as opposing in nature or a threat to our security as a nation? If the people do not speak up and demand their rights, freedom remains as a word that merely sounds nice.
What can you do?
* Representing Utah, Reps. Chaffetz, R, and Matheson, D, voted in favor of the bill; Rep. Bishop, R, voted against the bill. It passed with 248 ayes, 206 R, 42 D, against 168 noes, 28 R, 140 D, 15 congressmen did not vote.
Joyce Kuzmanic contributed non-opinion elements to this article.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.