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CISPA stirs up controversy online

By Samantha Esgro
On April 22, 2013

Last year, the United States faced two controversial bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, which were strongly protested with the largest online strike in history.
More than 100,000 websites participated in a "blackout" in which site owners would shut their website down and post a message expressing that they aimed to "Save the Internet," along with an explanation of why SOPA and PIPA were, in their opinion, bad news.
This year, a similar controversy is being faced with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a website dedicated to defending digital rights, CISPA's purpose is to "use cyber security systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property" of the company and then share that information with third parties and the government as long as it's for cybersecurity purposes.
One of the biggest advocates for the strike last year, Fight for the Future, is also against CISPA.
"CISPA punches a giant hole in the Fourth Amendment and invalidates every website's privacy policy," Evan Greer, campaign manager for Fight for the Future, said.
The Fourth Amendment states that "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Greer believes that if CISPA is passed, it would grant corporations sweeping legal immunity to share private user data like the contents of emails, bank statements and search histories with the government.
University of Memphis junior Josh Marking also disagrees with the passing of CISPA.
"The bill doesn't specify on which area of privacy so they could look at anything technology-wise in your life," Marking said. "I don't support it because it kills our freedom."
While CISPA is written to focus on texts or emails of individuals, according to EFF, it is written broadly enough "to permit your communications service providers to share your emails and text messages with the government, or your cloud storage company could share your stored files."
On the other hand, bill supporters argue that this would be beneficial to protect Internet users from foreign sites that hack into websites to gain access to personal information.
"I wouldn't care because it could help if someone was harassing or something somewhere," Amber Smith, sophomore U of M student, said.
According to Greer, CISPA is being lobbied for by big tech companies that want the legal protection that the legislation provides.
"They're willing to trade their users' rights to privacy in order to get it," Greer said.
Those who support the bill say that CISPA is a necessary move since the U.S. has been dealing with a growing number of attacks from countries like China.
A number of amendments have been made to the bill in order to ensure the privacy and proper use of citizens' rights, one of them being that companies can only use the information they receive for cyber-security purposes, not to aid their businesses.
"The Internet is good at defending itself," Greer said. "We defeated SOPA and ACTA. We stopped CISPA in the Senate the first time around, and unless there are some major, major changes, we'll stop it this time, too."

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