Apr 17, 2013

Should the president veto CISPA?

The new "cybersecurity" bill is up for a vote this week. It essentially gives private companies the right to search your data, including SMS, emails, files stores in the cloud, etc. with the government, without the need for any warrant or judicial oversight. It negates any protections of privacy provided by existing laws such as the Wiretap Act. There is also no requirement that individuals every be notified that their data has been given to any government agency, and it protects the private companies from any sort of legal liability for giving away your data.

There have been critics of the bill, but they ("we" to be perfectly honest) have been dismissed as "a 14-year-old- tweeter in the basement" by Mike Rogers (R-MI), one of the bills cosponsors. To be fair, it does have its supporters, including Facebook and Microsoft. This bill easily passed the House last year, but it got bogged down in the Senate, where a combination of amendments related to abortion and to repeal AHCA aka "Obamacare" ensured that it would never pass.

The president has threatened to veto it this time around. Of course, the fact is that there is a need for security measures, and without a doubt there are many "bad guys" out there using the internet for nefarious purposes. It is a balancing act, obviously. So which way should this go - become the law of the land, or vetoed and sent to the trash heap?

Yes, he probably should veto it. But will he? Who knows. All of these politicians are bought and paid for, so it remains to be seen if he'll stand up for the average joe or jane. Somehow, I doubt he will. But that's how it goes down in Washington. We have the best government money can buy. If you've got the cash, you can buy any of them down there.

Well, there is certainly a balancing act - legitimate law enforcement goals, such as prevention of terrorism or other violent crime, have to be weighed against the likewise legitimate and constitutionally secured right of citizens to privacy ("to be secure in their persons, papers, ...."). The balance that has existed for a long time has been enforced by the general requirement that government actors must have judicial oversight through the request for and issuance of a warrant before they can legally examine those things in which you have a reasonable right of privacy.

The problem I see (and the same one most opponents seem to have) is that CISPA could allow law enforcement to gain access to your emails, text messages, photos...basically everything you do that isn't sent through the physical mail, without any limits or respect for privacy. Advocates for CISPA say that you don't have any legitimate expectation to privacy in those things anyway, since you are using a third party (your ISP, email provider, etc.) for those things. I personally think that is bogus; everyone expects those things will stay private, as indicated by the use of passwords, and the "private" setting for storage of images.

So, yeah, I think it should be vetoed by President Obama. Until there is some judicial oversight to prevent any law enforcement officer, or perhaps bored clerk, from digging through my digital communications on a fishing expedition for something I MAY have done wrong, I think the proposed law is very bad indeed. I also don't appreciate that ad hominim attack on CISPA's opponents by Congressman Rogers.

Answer this