Internet freedom and user rights advocacy groups on Friday mounted a last-ditch effort to stop a controversial cybersecurity bill known as CISPA from being passed by the House of Representatives in the coming days.
“Everyone [in the advocacy community] who is working on this right now is trying to stop the bill from passing next week,” said Holmes Wilson, a co-founder of the advocacy group Fight For the Future, in a phone interview with TPM.
Fight for the Future has launched a protest webpage, “Congress TMI” to flood members of Congress with inane personal details about users lives, a commentary on the increased level of snooping on Web users that detractors say the bill would permit.
Altogether, “more than 1 million people have taken action [against CISPA] this week,” Wilson told TPM, citing the combined usage statistics of all the tools available across the different websites of advocacy groups protesting the bill.
But CISPA, which stands for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, still has a ways to go before becoming the law of the land: Even if the bill passes the House next week, it still has to be introduced to the Senate or merged with one of several existing cybersecurity bills there. Then, if the Senate passes it, it will go the President to be signed. However, the White House recently issued a thinly veiled critique of the bill, suggesting it isn’t necessarily a slam dunk.
CISPA seeks to increase the practice of sharing data, including Web user personal information, between private companies and the government. CISPA states that only data pertaining to cybersecurity threats, like website hacks or malware, may be shared.
Activists and other critics have targeted the bill due to the fact that it promises immunity from lawsuits for companies and agencies that share information “in good faith,” without telling users exactly what information of theirs is being shared, or when.
Wilson told TPM that his fellow CISPA critics hadn’t ruled out launching a mass online blackout day similar to the one that brought down another hated bill, the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA).
“We’re still thinking about our moves for next week, we’re thinking about a way to get major websites and blogs involved, but nothing’s been finalized,” Wilson told TPM.
The House is scheduled to debate and vote on CISPA during the week of April 23rd, though the actual vote won’t likely occur until Wednesday, April 25 or Thursday, April 26, according to sources.
Coupled with a large and growing base of over 100 bipartisan supporters in Congress itself, CISPA’s chances for passage look better than not.
Still, leaving nothing to chance, some supporters of the bill on Friday doubled-down on their stances.
As a spokesperson for CTIA, a lobbying group representing the nation’s major wireless companies, wrote in a blog post:
We support this legislation because our members, who are on the front lines in defending America’s communications networks from attack, believe it will promote robust and effective voluntary information sharing of cyber threat information between and among government and private sector partners. It will do this with appropriate privacy protections, as well as with the sort of immunity from lawsuits that will genuinely incent sharing of cyber threat information that will help our nation get ahead of the challenge.
CISPA was introduced in November 2011 by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, respectively.