Over 200 sites are participating in today's Internet shutdown to protest the cyber-security bill Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which the House of Representatives passed last week. But, the big names that showed up to last year's nearly Internet-wide protest of SOPA—like Wikipedia and Wired—haven't shut down their sites this time, even though opponents argue this bill is worse than any previously proposed Internet regulation. "
#CISPA is the ugly fusion of SOPA and PIPA into a super zombie bill determined to kill your online privacy," tweeted out YourAnonNews today, to underscore that very point. The voices speaking out today are very loud, but they don't have the ubiquity or scale of that last round of online protests.
Unlike SOPA which was widely condemned in the tech community, CISPA has the support of some major tech companies for the bill's measures meant to help them fight hackers. Last year Facebook came out in support of the legislation. And though it has since revoked its official support, the industry lobbying group TechNet, whose members include Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft, sent a letter to Congress earlier this month in support of the legislation: "This bill recognizes the need for effective cybersecurity legislation that encourages voluntary, bi-directional, real time sharing of actionable cyber threat information to protect networks." A few days later, the House passed that bill. The full list of pro-CISPA companies found here also includes IBM and HP.
These organizations like the law because it makes it easier for them to share data about hacking without getting in trouble. In the last few months alone Apple, Facebook, and Twitter have all made a public to do about their company's security breaches. But that's surely just a sliver of the hacking happening out there. Often organizations keep quiet when hacks happen not only fearful that they will look unsafe and spook users, but because sharing certain data could get them in legal trouble. Specifically, the legislation, if passed, would protect companies from being sued for breaking their Terms of Service agreement to hand over user information to the government deemed a threat to cyber security.
While that sounds like a worthy cause, privacy advocates fear the vague language would lead to an abuse of powers. That "blanketed under the guise" of combating cyber crime, the government would have access to health records, banking information, and other personal data without needing a court ordered warrant. Because of that, most of the protest has come from interest groups concerned with the privacy implications of the bill. Much like SOPA, the bill has a lot of vague language, which "undermines the privacy of millions of Internet users," argues the Electronic Frontier Foundation's activism director Rainey Reitman. This Reddit thread pretty much sums up the problem with the bill:
It could allow private companies to share your personal information with other companies and the government without informing you of it. The wording that relates to what information can be shared is vague, which raises concerns about what personal information of yours will be shared. The bill has been changed over time to address some of these concerns but most privacy advocates feel that it still has large loopholes that could be abused.
For those who want to join in on these protest, the EFF has created this handy tool for contacting your senator about the bill. Or, you can add your profile to the blackout, tweet about it with the #StopCISPA hashtag, or change your profile picture to the widget to the right.
Though, all these protests might be overkill for a bill going nowhere anyway. The regulation has "few friends" in the Senate, according to Forbes's Andy Greenberg. And President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.