The controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed again in the House of Representatives in a 288-127 vote last Thursday.
The bill is intended to protect against cybersecurity threats but has drawn criticism for violating Internet users’ privacy since its inception in 2011.
“In the case of Boston, they were real bombs,” said Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) in support of the legislation. “In this case, they’re digital bombs. And these digital bombs are on their way.”
In addition to a majority of the House, CISPA supporters include a number of large technology corporations who spent a great deal of time and money lobbying for passage of the contentious bill. According to "US News & World Report," organizations in favor of CISPA have outspent opposed groups more than 140 times.
Tech giants like IBM, AT&T, and Google have supported CISPA, saying that it will improve public safety by facilitating communication about cyber threats between private companies and the United States government. The law would also shield corporations from legal liability in the event of lawsuits due to breach of privacy agreements.
Conversely, the bill is wildly unpopular with grassroots online organizations like social media website Reddit and user-generated online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which have participated in organized online protests. Civil liberties groups have also lashed out against the act, citing concerns that the law would not require any burden of proof and could essentially void end user privacy agreements in the event of any “perceived threat.”
“By allowing this information sharing, (CISPA) bypasses due process and requiring a warrant for information,” Harrison Bergeron, sophomore biology major and vice president of the Libertarians at Virginia Tech, said in a statement to the "Collegiate Times."
“Any legislation under the guise of safety and security needs to be scrutinized publically to determine if the freedom we inevitably will lose is worth the sense of added security.”
Some also worry about the potential for “corporate vigilantism” online, as wording in the bill allows large corporations to engage in counter-hacking operations that would be illegal if undertaken by a private individual. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) added a section to the law, limiting corporate actions to their own networks. The effect of the addition remains unclear, however, as some analysts believe exemptions elsewhere in the bill may allow hacking by companies to take place beyond their digital walls.
Hacktivist collective Anonymous called for an Internet blackout earlier in the week to raise awareness about CISPA. The passage of the bill in the House received less scrutiny this year, as major media outlets were devoting time to covering unfolding developments in the Boston marathon bombing.
CISPA is now headed to the Senate, where it died last year. With gun control and immigration reform in the spotlight, senators again seem to have little interest in passing the bill. Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk without significant revisions that take user privacy into account.