There’s a push for cyber-security legislation in Congress this week and we have a chance to pressure our lawmakers to make sure that the legislation respects privacy rights and internet freedom. The House has already passed a bill, called CISPA, which had truly dreadful privacy implications: It would have trumped all existing online privacy protections, and allowed corporations to share your info with each other and the government — including the NSA and the military at large — with impunity.
The Senate version, as first presented, was almost as bad. But Senators Franken, Wyden, Sanders, backed by grassroots activists, did a great job of negotiating several pro-privacy changes and are pushing for more from the floor. ACLU discusses here, EFF here. We expect a battle led by surveillance proponents to strip most of those provisions.
Even if they’re maintained, the changes have made the bill better, but they haven’t made it good. The key amendment that’s going to be offered is sponsored by Al Franken and Rand Paul, and would strike language which allows companies to active monitor certain of customers’ communications.
This thing is a mess, and could actually still lose on the floor (or not achieve cloture). There’ll be no-votes on the final bill from 3 camps: privacy advocates who think the bill is bad, even with the amendments; the shills for the military industrial complex; and people who are voting with the Chamber of Commerce, as per their concerns about regulation of companies that run ‘critical infrastructure’ – utilities and that sort of thing.
Members of my group, Demand Progress, have generated more than 500,000 constituent contacts to the Senate so far. It remains unclear where Rhode Island’s delegation stands on the privacy amendments, so please join us: email your senators by clicking here. And you can click here for a phone number and call script. We can certainly win and protect the privacy provisions — and can maybe even beat this bill back all together.