The fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) showed us how effectively internet users can destroy legislation that could potentially hamper online freedom. But we may have to rally the troops again in the near future.

In a previous post, we asked the question, “Is the SOPA Fight Really Over?” And in short, it’s over. SOPA and PIPA were shelved indefinitely by the US Congress, effectively killing them. That was a monumental victory for the Web. However, a new bill stands on the horizon that according to ReadWriteWeb, could be even worse. That bill is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (CISPA). And while the three bills do share some similarities, CISPA is constructed under an entirely different facade.

Unlike PIPA and SOPA, CISPA is designed to preemptively fight against cyber attacks. The biggest red flag with regard to CISPA is that it’s an amendment to a current law and would remove a very important safeguard. That safeguard is how the US government and the private sector, primarily internet providers, share consumer information. If this bill passes, US intelligence services could grant certain private entities access to specific information and would in turn allow (and expect) those entities to reciprocate the favor to the US Government. But as RWW states, “The bill does not say that companies must share information with the government.”

This is not the most alarming issue with CISPA, however. What’s most frightening and nerve-racking about the bill is its ambiguous language, which is one of its greatest similarities to SOPA and PIPA. The two biggest players in the bill’s text are “Cybersecurity Providers” and “Cybersecurity Purpose, Cybersecurity System, Cybersecurity Threat Information.” And the proposed legislation’s definition of these terms could not be more vague.

  • Cybersecurity Provider: “A non-governmental entity that provides goods or services intended to be used for cybersecurity purposes.”
  • Cybersecurity Purpose, etc.: “[Any entity] designed or employed to ensure the integrity, confidentiality, or availability of, or safeguard, a system or network, including protecting a system or network from efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network; or theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.”

What the language of this bill does is allow the US government to request the smallest piece of information from a private company. Even a Facebook status or protected tweet, both of which were never intended to be used in any way associated with Cybersecurity. These are private forms of communication meant only for those they are shared with. This is why the vagueness of this bill is a problem.

Another concern with CISPA is the number of big-name internet/technology companies supporting it. Among those are Facebook, Intel, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and more.

CISPA goes to the floor of the House of Representative for debate and vote on April 23. We urge you to contact your Congressperson today to voice your dissatisfaction with the bill. And tell us in the comments what you think of CISPA. Is it as bad as SOPA or PIPA?

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