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CISPA marches onward with precious little fanfare or opposition

What happens when the government wants to fire a salvo in the copyright war that will, as a function of its broadside, accidentally break the foundation of the internet? Everyone gets upset, from the common folk to the mass media — because, see, everyone uses the internet. Thus, SOPA and PIPA died.

What happens when a whole lot of companies and a whole lot of House representatives want to push a bill that serves as another (more stealthy) salvo in that same copyright war, which indemnifies companies against being sued for any privacy violation that happens when the government demands personal information about customers without a warrant, allowing a completely legal totalitarian Big Brother state that extends far beyond the borders of the state in question? Apparently nothing — because, see, evidently nobody gives a shit about privacy.

CISPA was not as it turns out actually due for a vote today, as I reported earlier. It was slated to be up for a vote “as early as” Monday, but by all accounts, could pass the House by Friday. I’ve covered what the bill is and how it fits in the post-SOPA landscape, and Stephanie Zvan experienced a suspiciously timed glitch on Facebook, one of the bill’s corporate sponsors. Today, let’s talk about the media reaction to this bill.

A few places have picked up the story. Tech-ish sites like Wired and CNET and Information Week picked up the bill’s proposal and continue coverage, but that’s far from mainstream. Sites outside the US cover it, as usual, much deeper than the seemingly media-embargoed news outlets inside the country — for instance, The Guardian has excellent coverage. Even state-sponsored Russia Times continues its presently surprisingly democratic and freedom-loving vector. (I have to be honest — I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. This might be a bad reflection on my personal prejudices.)

Aside from that, you’ll pretty much only hear about CISPA in the blogosphere. Bloggers who care about privacy and freedom of expression and actual cyber-security — e.g. people who think “Advanced Persistent Threats” are ridiculously overblown foils (like cartoon terrorists, only for computers!), used for fictional scenarios used to scare up big bucks — are pretty much the only folks running with this one. SOPA died in no small part because Wikipedia and Reddit raised awareness by blacking out their sites in protest. This time, they evidently can’t be bothered.

But what really galls me about this is not the lack of mainstream media coverage. It’s the crowing coming from Mike Rogers (R-MI), as though the bill is already a fait accompli. It’s the fact that the biggest name speaking out against this is perennial nutter Ron Paul.

It’s the fact that this is probably going to happen because too few people give a shit about privacy, too few people know that the real privacy bomb is the passage about “theft of intellectual property” being as bad as actual “cyber security” threats, and too few people know anything about the internet to know that “cyber security” as understood by the layfolk is something you actually have to define and delineate in matters of law, or else you’ll just get another “this is a matter of National Security(tm)” stock phrase for way easier violation of your rights. Did something on a computer? The government could at any time say “give us everything you have on Jane Doe, it’s a matter of Cyber Security(tm).” Doesn’t matter if they’re asking for that info because they got an anonymous tip that you downloaded a cam rip of The Avengers, or that you’re actually running a botnet out of your house, or hell, let’s say because you registered for the other political party than the one that’s in power now. And you can’t sue. (Democrats tried to add back the “you can sue companies for screwing you over” language, but Republicans took it right back out.)

It’s the fact that Google is trying to play it both ways, secretly working on the bill while avoiding making an official stance and while Rogers repeatedly claims they support the bill.

My gall on this one is also, to a large degree, the fact that I feel like I’m ranting into the wind on this one. Fruitlessly. It’s a sense of impotence mixed with foreboding.

Comments

  1. karmakin says

    The unfortunate part is that going against CISPA is probably a non-starter for any group/company who has a real concern about cybercrime and identity theft.

  2. F says

    Maybe if more of the meta-blogosphere had been banging on about it earlier, it may have helped some. The standard news channels probably won’t touch it very much, and they are possibly primed to ignore any gathering movement of the masses to protest the bill.

    Outside of IT-oriented tech sites, freedoms-related sites, and places like TechDirt, I don’t see any of these sorts of bills and treaties mentioned until very late in the game. While some sites have been consistently reporting on ACTA, for example, for years, and people in other countries and even governments have protested it and dropped from the potential signatory list, the majority of people in the US are largely ignoring it. So shout loudly, shout early.

    @ kamarkin

    The unfortunate part is that going against CISPA is probably a non-starter for any group/company who has a real concern about cybercrime and identity theft.

    Well, no. No one with any real concern would support this security theater excuse for invading privacy whatsoever. And if they actually had any real concerns, they would have been addressing them for the last twenty years rather than covering up, ignoring, and playing the insurance game with “cyber” crime. They might make that claim, but they would be full of shit.

  3. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    It occurred to one of my cynical friends that this could’ve been meant to legalize warrantless abuses that were probably already going on with Carnivore/DCS1000 and the successor, NarusInsight.

    A single NarusInsight machine can monitor traffic equal to the maximum capacity (10 Gbit/s) of around 39,000 DSL lines or 195,000 telephone modems. But, in practical terms, since individual internet connections are not continually filled to capacity, the 10 Gbit/s capacity of one NarusInsight installation enables it to monitor the combined traffic of several million broadband users.
    [...]
    It can also perform semantic analysis of the same traffic as it is happening, in other words analyze the content, meaning, structure and significance of traffic in real time. The exact use of this data is not fully documented, as the public is not authorized to see what types of activities and ideas are being monitored.

  4. says

    Great piece, here. I’ve shared it around my social media networks, for whatever that’s worth. I do a lot of ranting and writing at Dear Dirty America, and sometimes it feels like I’m throwing it into the wind, also. But, maybe that’s all we have left. Getting the right information out there, as fast as possible, and hopefully it spreads.

    Anyway, great read, great information. Thank you.

  5. says

    This is getting closer and closer to the world predicted in Shadowrun. Pretty much all we need now are cyberdecks and a return of Magic and fantastical creatures to the Earth.

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