CISPA debate heats up

12/04/2012

The public backlash to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), soon to be voted on by the US Congress, has forced the bill’s sponsors to come out in defence of the proposal.

Unlike the failed SOPA and PIPA initiatives which floundered in Congress last year, CISPA focuses on the sharing of cyber intelligence between the US government and the private sector and between private entities. The text does however indentify “theft or misappropriation of private or government information, Intellectual property or personally identifiable information” as threats.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who is one of the sponsors of CISPA, stressed that “it is a cyber-security focus” claiming the bill would “deal with getting into private networks for the purposes of cyber disruption or theft of property.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other civil liberties groups have pointed out that the vague nature of the wording in the legislation, an attempt to make the legislation technology neutral, will open it up to potential abuse by the government and private companies.

If passed into legislation CISPA will establish procedures that will facilitate the sharing of intelligence between the government and the private sector. While the government is encouraged to share information, it will be up to the head of each intelligence entity to decide if, when and with whom to share. The bill will also create guarantees for private sector entities who wish to share information, such as protections over the use of any information shared.

Congress plans to vote on CISPA and several other cyberspace-related bills next month.