Opponents of CISPA cybersecurity bill mount campaign ahead of Senate vote

Matt Pitchford | Contributor

Fight for the Future, one of the major organizers behind the anti-SOPA blackouts that took the Internet by storm in January, is again gearing up to protest legislation it says will compromise the privacy of Internet users everywhere.

Fight for the Future co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng told The Daily Caller that her organization’s current campaign, Privacy is Awesome, exists to “make sure that senators hear from constituents that have privacy concerns.”

The group’s current target is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a bill introduced by Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers that passed the House by a comfortable 248-168 vote margin in April. CISPA will be considered by the Senate sometime next week.

The legislation is designed to encourage private companies and the federal government to share information about users that they collect online. Proponents say CISPA will help prevent sophisticated electronic attacks by terrorists and foreign governments.

Recent high-profile hacks allegedly organized by the hacking collective Anonymous have drawn attention to the security vulnerabilities of sensitive government websites.

“We strongly urge the Senate to swiftly take up this issue because the United States cannot afford to wait to improve our nation’s cybersecurity posture,” said TechAmerica chief Shawn Osborne. “Standing pat will only further risk our national security.”

However, Lee Tien, an attorney for a legal non-profit that sued AT&T over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, said CISPA poses considerable risks to privacy.

“I worry that you can get a version of cybersecurity warrantless wiretapping out of this,” Tien said in April.

Fight for the Future is also working with Democrats.com, The Liberty Coalition and the Entertainment Consumers Association in its campaign against CISPA.

“[I have] major concerns about how much power the government will have to perform surveillance on all the individuals in this country,” Cheng said. “Cases could be built against individuals by the FBI, IRS, or whoever, without due process. CISPA opens the doors for huge amounts of abuse.”

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden expressed similar concerns about the bill in the weeks preceding the Senate vote.

“[CISPA and its Senate equivalent] subordinate all existing privacy rules and constitutional principles to the poorly defined interest of cyber-security,” Wyden said, according to Slate.

CISPA is not the only cybersecurity legislation under consideration by the Senate. The Cybersecurity Act, which includes many provisions from CISPA, was introduced in February with support from Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto CISPA, but supports the bill sponsored by Collins and Feinstein.

Cheng and the Privacy is Awesome campaign oppose both bills, and they claim the public is on their side.

“Public opposition is trans-partisan,” Cheng said. “Opposition is growing, because there is a real political constituency for Internet issues that is made up of right, left, center and trans-partisan individuals.”

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