New cybersecurity good for safety, bad for internet freedom
It's no secret that the state of the Internet in America is riddled with problems – to name a few, matters of internet freedom, net neutrality and the security of the data we post online have all been drawn to the public's attention in the past year with mass media attention. Recently, a cybersecurity bill proposed by the United States Senate called two of these issues into question simultaneously, with many critics saying that while the legislation would increase information security, it would pose an enormous threat to net neutrality and the level of access the government has to any given citizen's data. Whether the bill gets passed or not remains unclear, but it has already sparked some frustration in the media and general public alike.
Overview of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014, or CISA
The bill, proposed and championed by Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein, is strikingly similar to a similar piece of legislation that was struck down in the Senate in 2012, succinctly titled The Cybersecurity Act of 2012. Lobbying groups and media alike are arguing that the 2014 version of the bill is even more potentially damaging to the American public, however, as it lacks a critical clause that would protect user data from the National Security Agency from accessing and compromising the private data of citizens.
Over 22 groups have banded together to fight the act, including representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Demand Progress. They have written to Congress and explained their concerns about taking preventative measures versus the NSA like those mentioned in the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, a topic Jason Koebler of Motherboard expanded on the issue in a recent article.
"The July 2012 bill also contained provisions clarifying that nothing in the Act, including overbroad application of the terms 'cybersecurity threat' and 'countermeasure,' could be construed to modify or alter any Open Internet rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission," the group noted in their letter to Feinstein. "Net neutrality is a complex topic and policy on this matter should not be set by cybersecurity legislation."
Public backlash and the future of CISA
The primary issue with this oversight in CISA is that many believe it completely disregards the massive revelations that were released to the public during the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden and the NSA in 2013. Outrage has been expressed by a number of individuals, and has prompted activist group Anonymous to release a video on YouTube threatening those who supported the bill, wearing their traditional Guy Fawkes masks to protect their identities.
"Not only is this a direct attack against the fourth amendment of the bill of rights, but it is also an attack against our collective," a representative said in the video, according to a report from GovInfoSecurity. "CISA, and those who have crafted and supported this bill, have become sworn enemies of Anonymous."
Though the video is likely a publicity stunt, writer Eric Chabrow speculated that it could get the group into hot matter, as any person theatening to assault a public official could be convincted to up to six years in prison. Anonymous has waded into similar murky territory before, with over 10 arrests taking place during their "Operation Avenge Assange" effort in 2011.
As for CISA itself, there is no planned voting date as of yet but Feinstein's camp stated that their committee is planning to take a look at the bill soon. They have not released a response to the letter sent by the lobbyist groups, and it looks like the public will need to hold their breath until the government makes the next move.