Privacy Wars : The CISA Battle Awakens

In the almost 2.5 years since Edward Snowden went public about the PRISM program, the privacy wars continue. The latest incarnation of legislation designed to “protect” us is known as CISA. If you are not aware, that stands for the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act. This bipartisan bill is supposed to improve public and private sector cybersecurity by creating incentives for businesses to voluntarily betray their users’ trust and share their private information with other companies as well as the government.

Congress

This bill may sound like a good idea superficially, but many privacy groups do not care for the bill. One of them is a privacy group called Fight for the Future. In an open letter that begins “You betrayed us”, this group criticizes the companies and groups that support this legislation, and calls for a boycott on them. One of the targets of their boycott is Heroku/Salesforce. Interestingly, that is the webhosting company that hosts the site for Fight for the Future. Needless to say, they are leaving them and encourage others to do the same.

Before you think Heroku is the only one under fire, there are other big names that have come out in support of this bill. Some of the names include companies like Apple, Symantec, Microsoft, IBM, Autodesk, Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, and Seimens. Whereas it would be difficult to do without some of these companies, Fight for the Future wanted to bring awareness of the companies to light.

Just like in the past, the debate over CISA should remind you of the debates over the 2012 bill called SOPA. The big difference is back then, many companies were opposed to the legislation. With such major companies on board now, the privacy rights group fears the worst will happen. As of late, it seemed like some of the major companies had taken a step forward in users’ privacy rights, instead of backward.

Recently, we have heard of Microsoft and Apple in court cases refusing to cooperate with authorities even when the authorities had warrants. There were those of us that hoped these cases would lead to other companies following suit. Clearly, these hopes are unfounded. In the wake of the PRISM scandal, you would think that companies would be less apt to participate in programs like this.

Ultimately, the privacy war may rage on, but perhaps there is a silver lining here. CISA still has quite a few obstacles in it’s way before congress can pass it. Time grows short for this bill because there are more important legislative matters to attend to, and we are heading in to an election year. If CISA does not pass, it will more likely be because of time limitations.  In that case we will likely see it again in he future.