There seems to be a lot of discussion lately about the piece of legislation known as CISPA. Many people are against CISPA but it seems only a few actually know what it is and what it could mean to the online community.
CISPA, also known as H.R. 3523, is an acronym for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. Legislators in favor of CISPA present it as a protective measure to prevent cyber attacks against the United States. Unfortunately, the vague wording of the bill could allow the censoring, monitoring and stopping of nearly any online traffic the government disagrees with.
At a time when the NSA PRISM spying scandal is all over the news, the CISPA bill would make cyber spying on our citizens legal. According to those with an information technology degree, by removing or circumventing the few cyber privacy protection acts currently in place and allowing the NSA, and other agencies, virtually unlimited access to online communications, based on vague security threats, the CISPA legislation has the ability to wipe out online privacy in one fell swoop.
Some proponents of this legislation say that this should not bother you if you have nothing to hide. While that would be a legitimate argument under normal circumstances it does not really apply to CISPA. The wording of CISPA is so vague that virtually anything could be called a threat to security and that communication, website or discussion can be censored, removed or monitored by the offended agency. For example, say you are having an email conversation with a professor for an online class and in one of your emails a word is used that triggers a red flag in a computer that is monitoring internet traffic. At this point they have probable cause to begin monitoring all internet traffic of you and your professor.
Another issue with CISPA that should cause concern is if a website is critical of the government it could be deemed a terrorist threat and removed, with no due process or warning. This is pure censorship not what the United States is supposed to be about. This also flies in the face of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
As it stands CISPA would also infringe on due process and by extension the Fifth Amendment that protects against the government abuse of its authority during legal proceedings. An agency deciding they do not like what you have written about them, or some other part of the government, and removing it, would be a gross violation of the Fifth Amendment.
Let us not forget the Fourth Amendment, protection against unreasonable search and seizure. I would say that the ability to monitor all web traffic, censor any that is deemed unsatisfactory and more closely monitor any person they deem necessary, without any checks and balances or due process should be considered unreasonable search and seizure.
Now you are a bit more educated on the topic of CISPA and what it means to every one of us, why many people fear and oppose it. Perhaps we would all be wise to keep in mind the words of one of our founding fathers. It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “When people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people there is liberty.“