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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wording of CISPA far too vague to be allowed to pass through Senate

    People care a lot about personal privacy, so it’s understandable that bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act and Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act raise concerns. It’s good that people care, because a modicum of privacy is an inherent human right — but a lot of people also jump to conclusions before trying to educate themselves about what’s really happening.

    To start, CISPA is not SOPA. SOPA would have done two things. First, it would have granted copyright holders the ability to try to have websites from outside the U.S. banned for copyright infringement while also making multiple instances of streaming video punishable by up to five years in prison.

    CISPA deals with national and cyber security, and allows private companies to share online data with the government and other third party agencies if that information seems to present a threat to the country.

    SOPA was an infringment of the First Amendment because of the bill’s potential for censorship. CISPA, on the other hand, could be a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures — a protection that has been extended to (at least) emails by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in the case United States v. Warshak.

    But CISPA at least seems to have good . The root of the problem, as it was with SOPA, is that the bill’s language is too vague. It does list the circumstances when a company can share information, but they’re open-ended, subjective situations.

    According to an article on, the bill would “enable companies and intelligence agencies to share information related to 1) cyber security purposes; 2) investigation and prosecution of cyber security crimes; 3) protection of individuals from death and bodily harm; 4) child pornography; or 5) protection of the national security of the United States.”

    All of those things sound great, and with the Internet’s anonymity some kind of cyber security measures are necessary, but who decides what kind of information pertains to any of the above scenarios?

    After all, what are cyber security purposes, exactly? What can really protect someone from death or bodily harm? Can an entire private Facebook conversation be handed over to the government because someone wrote “im gonna punch u”? That is a threat of bodily harm, but it hardly needs to be a federal case.

    Companies can also share data with each other, so Google can tell Facebook what you’ve been saying in emails if it fulfills certain qualifications that are murky at best. Even worse, the bill never says personal information needs to be redacted when such data is shared, so your name and other sensitive information can be attached for any company or agency to see — and who knows what kind of problems that could cause?

    So yes, in its current form, CISPA is problematic and should not be passed. And yes, the House did pass the bill on April 18. But despite all that, you don’t need to worry just yet.

    First off, the Senate didn’t pass SOPA, and CISPA is facing plenty of opposition, according to an article from Forbes. The article references a bill similar to CISPA that was voted down last year. That piece of legislation was not only sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, but it provided clearer guidelines for how information was to be shared.

    Even more reassuring is the fact that President Barack Obama’s administration released a statement saying his advisors would recommend the president veto the bill if it ever ended up on his desk.

    Being vigilant against threats to our online liberties is important, but so is being informed. CISPA could be a good bill with more specific language, because cyber-security is a huge concern as technology becomes further ingrained in the country’s infrastructure. It’s just not there yet.

    — Jason Krell is the online arts editor. He can be reached at or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions

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