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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/29/15

The Senate, ignorant on cybersecurity, just passed a bill about it anyway

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Reprinted from The Guardian


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Under the vague guise of "cybersecurity," the Senate voted on Tuesday to pass the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (Cisa), a spying bill that essentially carves a giant hole in all our privacy laws and allows tech and telecom companies to hand over all sorts of private information to intelligence agencies without any court process whatsoever. Make no mistake: Congress has passed a surveillance bill in disguise, with no evidence it'll help our security.

All that is needed for companies to hand over huge swaths of information to the government is for it to contain "cyber threat indicators" -- a vague phrase that can be interpreted to mean pretty much anything. Your personal information -- which can include the content of emails -- will be handed over to the Department of Homeland Security, the agency supposedly responsible for the nation's cybersecurity. From there the information can be sent along to the NSA, which can add it to databases or use it to conduct even more warrantless searches on its internet backbone spying (which once again, a judge ruled last week could not be challenged in court because no one can prove the NSA is spying on them, since the agency inevitably keeps that information secret).
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Try asking the bill's sponsors how the bill will prevent cyber-attacks or force companies and governments to improve their defenses. They can't answer. They will use buzzwords like "info-sharing" yet will conveniently ignore the fact that companies and the government can already share information with each other as is.

There were barely any actual cybersecurity experts who were for the bill. A large group of respected computer scientists and engineers were against it. So were cyberlaw professors. Civil liberties groups uniformly opposed (and were appalled by) the bill. So did consumer groups. So did the vast majority of giant tech companies. Yet it still sailed through the Senate, mostly because lawmakers -- many of whom can barely operate their own email -- know hardly anything about the technology that they're crafting legislation about.

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Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and lawyer who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He has contributed to  The (more...)
 

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