The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass a reprehensible cyber-security bill that seeks to protect online companies—giant social media firms to data-sharing networks controlling utilities—from cyber attack. It is reprehensible because, as Democratic San Jose Rep. Zoe Lofgren said this week, it gives the federal government too much access to the private lives of every Internet user. Or as Libertarian Rep. Ron Paul also bluntly put it, it turns Facebook and Google into “government spies.”
But that’s not the biggest problem with the Congress’s urge to address a real problem—protecting the Internet from cyber attacks. While House passage launches a process that continues in the Senate, the bigger problem with the best known of the cyber bills before the House, CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, is not what is in it — which is troubling enough — but what is not on Congress’s desk: a comprehensive approach to stop basic constitutional rights from eroding in the Internet Age.
“I don’t think the current cyber-security debate is adequately protecting civil liberties,” said Anjali Dalal, a resident fellow with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School (and a blogger). “CISPA seems to place constitutionally suspect behavior outside of judicial review. The bill immunizes all participating entities ‘acting in good faith.’ So what happens when an ISP hands over mountains of data under the encouragement and appreciation of the federal government? We can’t sue the government, because they didn’t do anything. And we can’t sue the ISP because the bill forbids it.”
What happens is anybody’s guess. But what does not happen is clear. The government, as with the recently adopted National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, does not have to go through the courts when fighting state "enemies" on U.S. soil. Instead, CISPA, like NDAA, expands extra-judicial procedures as if America’s biggest threats must always be addressed on a kind of wartime footing. Constitutional protections, starting with privacy rights, are mostly an afterthought. [Continue reading…]