White House voices privacy concerns over CISPA
12:51pm | 18 April 2012 | by Mike Rispoli, English
Voicing its concern for protecting the privacy of internet users, the White House on Tuesday released a statement denouncing cyber security legislation that does not include "robust safeguards" for civil liberties -- a thinly-veiled criticism of the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.
CISPA, as it is known, has been met with outrage from the internet community over the past few weeks. Access alone has received nearly 25,000 signatures from concerned internet users from around the world, who have called on technology companies supporting CISPA to stand up for user privacy and withdraw their support of the bill. We have issued an open letter to these companies, telling them that protecting against cyber attacks should not come at the expense of user privacy.
The statement from the White House came after top security officials met with House members to discuss cyber security legislation, according to a report in the Hill. The White House has expressed its support for another cyber security bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), which includes more clearly defined language and additional privacy protections.
"The nation’s critical infrastructure cyber vulnerabilities will not be addressed by information sharing alone," said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. "Also, while information sharing legislation is an essential component of comprehensive legislation to address critical infrastructure risks, information sharing provisions must include robust safeguards to preserve the privacy and civil liberties of our citizens. Legislation without new authorities to address our nation’s critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, or legislation that would sacrifice the privacy of our citizens in the name of security, will not meet our nation's urgent needs," she said, without explicitly mentioning CISPA."
Hayden's statement comes as Access, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, and twenty other public interests groups from across the political spectrum jointly launched a nationwide campaign in a week of action against CISPA. The joined effort from these organizations comes as interest around CISPA has heightened in the past few weeks. Only two weeks ago, CISPA was quietly making its way through Congress, supported by more than 100 cosponsors and a wide range of technology corporations, many of whom were unaware of the far-reaching risks of the legislation. However, thanks to the efforts of a growing coalition of civil society and digital watchdog organizations, CISPA is beginning to attract the same kind of widespread public scrutiny that killed SOPA and PIPA a few months ago.
These efforts caused Facebook to issue a response on its official blog last Friday. Specifically, Facebook said that it "recognized that a number of privacy and civil liberties groups have raised concerns about the bill – in particular about provisions that enable private companies to voluntarily share cyber threat data with the government. The concern is that companies will share sensitive personal information with the government in the name of protecting cybersecurity. Facebook has no intention of doing this and it is unrelated to the things we liked about HR 3523 in the first place." While Access would like to see these companies to fully withdraw their support of CISPA, Faecbook's statement is definitely a step in the right direction.
With the statement from the White House, and technology companies being put on notice, there are signs that the political tide may be turning against the passage of this frightening legislation. It is essential to keep up the pressure on lawmakers, and continue to raise awareness on the part of tech companies and the general public about just how dangerous CISPA really is. The Access team is pleased with the progress that has been made on this front, but there is clearly a great deal more work to be done to ensure that any "cybersecurity" legislation that ends up being passed strikes a healthy balance between the needs of law enforcement and the basic human rights of the people these policies are supposed to protect.