After SOPA-PIPA, privacy rights advocates set sights on CISPA

Privacy rights advocates waged a successful war on SOPA and PIPA earlier this year, claiming the anti-piracy bills would allow widespread censorship on the Internet. Now those advocates are preparing for battle again.

The target this time is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act ( CISPA), which was introduced last November and is scheduled for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives next week.

According to my friend and colleague Jaikumar Vijayan over at Computerworld, "The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Fight for the Future and other groups say that the legislation would allow Internet companies and the government to collect virtually any private online user content under the pretext of cybersecurity."

He writes:

The privacy groups contend that CISPA would dismantle existing protections provided by the Federal Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other laws.

They are hoping to stop the bill, or force amendments to it, by rallying widespread Internet opposition. Leaders say the groups will jointly call on supporters to contact local lawmakers to express their opposition.

The groups have also launched a Twitter campaign that aims to show lawmakers what kind of data the government could access if the bill is passed.

Earlier this year, similar online protests prompted lawmakers to abandon efforts to pass two extremely unpopular anti-piracy bills -- the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act.

"We are deeply concerned about the information-sharing component of this bill," said Rainey Reitman activism director at the EFF. "Companies would be allowed to ship any kind of personal information to the government without any judicial oversight."

On the surface, it sounds bad, but I don't have an opinion on this one yet. I have to study the bill further. If it does prove to be as dangerous as SOPA-PIPA, I'll join the protests as vigorously as I did with the ill-conceived anti-piracy bills.

Stay tuned.

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