CISPA threatens our privacy as much as SOPA, PIPA did

As Internet users in the United States approach nearly 80 percent of the American population, Congress has been struggling to keep up with the new challenges and opportunities introduced by the worldwide web. The year 2012 was filled by their controversial attempts to protect intellectual property and copyrighted material at the cost of user privacy.  

Thanks to massive community opposition, both the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act were postponed before the bills could be drafted. However, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act has slipped through and will be reintroduced into the House of Representatives later this year.

Unlike the other bills, CISPA focuses on counteracting cyber threats and protecting cyber security. But similar to its counterparts, the bill presents a threat against American Internet users’ privacy. If passed, CISPA would allow the U.S. government and Internet service providers to exchange information about potential cyber threats and Internet attacks. The U.S. government would also gain the power to shut off Internet traffic from certain sources temporarily to preserve Internet access where it is critical. 

While it is important that the United States is defended against threats to its cyber security, especially with the growing concern of cyber-espionage from countries like China and Iran, CISPA presents an extremely large risk of abuse. Under the guise of preventing potential cyber security threats, private corporations and the government could exchange your personal information without your knowledge. 

While Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. — a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced the bill — insists that citizens who think their privacy has been violated are allowed to the sue the government, the fact remains that corporations involved in this exchange of information are not held liable.

SOPA and PIPA were stopped because of large opposition, which also included several major corporations, such as Google and Amazon. This gave the opposition much more legitimacy and helped produce movements such as the SOPA Internet blackout.  

But it’s unlikely the same will happen with CISPA; despite the threat of the bill being reintroduced, nothing near the same amount of opposition has been heard. Internet activist organizations have not given up and are trying to rally the same amount of opposition for CISPA despite lack of corporate backing. 

Though the premise behind CISPA is sound, its potential for misuse is too great. So as residents of Illinois, contact representatives Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky. As voters, we will not tolerate another attack on our privacy.

Brian is a junior in Engineering. He can be reached at brianyu1@illinimedia.com.