CISPA Passed by U.S. House of Representatives in Last Minute Vote


The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or H.R. 3523, just passed the U.S. House of Representatives after the day-long hearing. Originally expected to be debated on the floor of the House today for a vote tomorrow, the bill’s supporters decided to push the vote today and it went through with 248 to 168.

The bill has been forwarded by supporters as a way for companies to take part in national cybersecurity by sharing information about “cyber threats.” It also enables ISPs and companies to secretly and voluntarily hand over confidential and private data to the government, NSA, FBI, and military. All of this would be done when a potential cyber threat is in play and the provider of that data is not required to sanitize any personally identifying material from the dump when they do so.

Critics cite the bill as dangerous because it shields from criminal or civil liability any ISP or company who hands over this information to government agencies under the provisions of the bill. Written into CISPA is also an immunity that quenches privacy laws and contracts in order to expedite the transfer of information on present or ongoing cyberattacks.

Wired reports that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Rogers used patriotic language to urge the floor to a vote and accused detractors of obfuscation,

Moments before the vote was taken during a daylong hearing, Rogers urged his colleagues to “stand up for America. Support this bill.” He said those who were opposing the measure — groups that include the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation — were practicing “obfuscation.”

The bill is supported by many corporations, some of whom who were seen in the battle-lines of SOPA such as Microsoft and Facebook, and others in telecommunication such as AT&T, Verizon, and Oracle.

Mere moments after the bill’s passage, the ACLU and EFF stood up to denounce its current form:

“Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU legislative counsel.

These concerns are mirrored by the current admiration as well. While executives in the White House had come out against CISPA last week, only yesterday did an official statement arrive stating in no uncertain terms that the President’s senior advisors would council him to veto the bill should it pass in its current form.

“Legislation should address core critical infrastructure vulnerabilities without sacrificing the fundamental values of privacy and civil liberties for our citizens, especially at a time our Nation is facing challenges to our economic well-being and national security…” an official from the executive office wrote. “[F]or the reasons stated herein, if H.R. 3523 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

The next step will take CISPA to the U.S. Senate for a vote, but before then people might want to make themselves aware of what it will do to their personal privacy, and potentially the trust that they put in social media, search engines, and any other Internet service.