Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

CISPA: Not This $&#^ Again

In the early days of this blog, I posted about SOPA, a bill that threatened to take a sledgehammer to the open internet to protect the intellectual property of a few organizations. While many of us may or may not have a pirated mp3 or a burned copy of a DVD lying around, the problem most had with SOPA wasn’t that copyrights don’t deserve protection. It was that in service of copyright protection, the legislation would’ve severely compromised many of the completely legal activities that are vital to keeping the internet…internetting. So sites blacked out. Petitions were signed. Congresspeople were called. And the horrible, horrible bill was killed. Good thing we’ll never have to worry about that again.

Except we do. Now’ish. Others have done a better job of explaining this than I can, but here’s my summary: The Cyber-Intelligence and Security Protection Act (CISPA) has nothing to do with copy protection, but does have that same using-a-grenade-to-kill-flies quality. Essentially it  would make it legal for government agencies to request- and private firms to hand over- your private information/correspondence without a warrant. The theory behind this is that the traditional judicial review process—a fundamental underpinning of our legal system—adds time hurdles that might hinder the fight against hackers and other cyber-criminals. Again, this is a worthy goal.

Cyber-attacks have the potential to wreak havoc on a lot of things we like: the financial system, the power grid, Pinterest…and it’s not shocking that an unprecedented mode of crime might require some re-tooling of the ways we fight crime. The reasonable expectation of privacy we have when we send a text message or post compromising photos to our private Facebook albums is a pretty big price to pay, however. So who wants this awful thing to pass?

Not surprisingly, some of the biggest holders of this kind of data think it’s great. Among the biggest contributors to the pro-CISPA lobbying pot have been AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. No big surprise there, as the law would take the legal onus off them to resist handing the data over. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be the same level of corporate resistance to CISPA, as there was to SOPA. Again, no big surprise, as this bill doesn’t pose the same threat to blow up big, expensive things, like YouTube. 

But it’s important to stop this one too, maybe even more so. Lately, privacy debates often center around marketing, ad targeting, etc. That’s a conversation worth having, but taking a hatchet to the rights we enjoy as American citizens is a bigger deal.

CISPA is stuck between houses of congress for the moment, having already passed the house, but not having been brought up yet in the senate. The president has vowed to veto the legislation, but that may not mean much, as the types of activity the bill legalizes may already be going on. All that to say the previous 473 words may not matter in the grand scheme. 

But judicial review does. And enshrining CISPA into law is a step in the wrong direction in that regard.

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