CISA bill advances in the Senate and raises concerns
The Cyber Security information Sharing Act has gotten plenty of press attention in the past handful of weeks for its strengths and weaknesses, and has raised many an eyebrow with its noncommittal language regarding user privacy and the American government's ability to access and manipulate data.
These concerns spring, of course, from the Snowden-National Security Agency debacle of 2013, which has left both citizens and media outlets alike extremely wary of any access legislative bodies have to their information. The bill, proposed by Senator Diane Feinstein and self-described as an "information sharing law," passed through the Senate last week on a 12-3 vote, and has left many concerned about its potential to pass linked with the government's ability to spy.
Senate opponents make their voices heard
Cybersecurity bills have become notorious for being slow or impossible to pass through the Senate's doors in the past, most recently with a piece of legislation called the Cybersecurity Act of 2012. The act was criticized at the time (before the Snowden scandal) for its unclear language, and never made it past the Senate vote. According to Vice writer Jason Koebler, the act included a specification involving American Internet freedom that the current CISA bill lacks, raising many an eyebrow amongst opponents. The 2012 bill's wording included "protecting the open Internet," a phrase and implication completely absent from CISA.
In a controversial move of their own, senators Ron Wyden (D-Or.) and Mark Udall (D-Co.) opposed the CISA movement in the vote and released a statement that supported their reasoning, according to Forbes.
"We have seen how the federal government has exploited loopholes to collect Americans' private information in the name of security," the statement read. "The only way to make cybersecurity information-sharing effective and acceptable is to ensure that there are strong protections for Americans' constitutional privacy rights. Without these protections in place, private companies will rightly see participation as bad for business."
Though the complete wording of the bill has not yet been released to the public, the comments of the senators lead the public to believe there is reason to be concerned for the privacy of their personal data and Internet activity.
The risk of CISA passing into law
A particular area of scrutiny the act has arisen is Feinsteins meaning when it comes to a phrase that implies that private information will be shared with the government "through a purely voluntary process and with significant measures to protect private information," according to The Guardian. Staff writer Trevor Timm wrote in a recent opinion piece that he believed that this 'voluntary' admission is laughable.
"Under the new provisions, your data can get handed over by the tech companies and others to the Department of Homeland Security (not exactly a civil liberties haven itself), but then it can be passed along to the nation's intelligence agencies … including the NSA," Timm detailed.
In spite of these glaring missing pieces of the puzzle, CISA passed through the Senate easily, and is expected to hit the floor for further discussion after the Senate recess in August. Cybersecurity has been a hot button topic across the country since the Snowden revelations, and the appeal this bill has for the everyday citizen who is looking to protect their own information way result in a lack of attention paid to the actual wording of the bill.
CISA passing, as many media outlets have speculated, could result in a far more complicated battle surrounding net neutrality and the security of the nation's information. The bill would exsure that personal data would be better protected from external hackers, but this may be at the expense of passing it into the hands of the nation's biggest spy.