The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) passed Senate with a vote of 74 to 21 on October 27th, paving the way to the new data retention law. The bill now only needs to pass through the House and go to President Obama’s desk to be signed, both likely to happen. Critics claim that the law will be a free pass to mass surveillance, and internet users are scrambling to find alternative ways to protect their privacy.
CISA is said to have been created to protect companies from the growing corporate data breaches – such as the one that recently affected Sony and government computers – by allowing corporations to share information about cybersecurity threats with the Department of Homeland Security. The data will then be analyzed by the government agencies, such as the FBI and NSA, and shared with companies fearing security breaches.
The bill has evoked a wave of protests from tech community. Major technology industry groups that represent Apple, Dell, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others stepped in to explain that the bill allows companies to share their users information with the government without a warrant, violating privacy of users and legal accountability.
Interestingly, Department of Homeland Security has also openly expressed “unease” with CISA, saying it could take away “important privacy protections.”
University professors that teach tech law, many from the Princeton Center of Information Technology Policy, sent a letter to the Senate ahead of the vote, asking to reconsider passing the bill, which would undermine the Freedom of Information Act.
Is it possible that American corporations that lobbied for the law to pass (such as The American Banking Association and The Telecommunications Industry Association), simply do not grasp the seriousness of privacy violations that the new law is bringing about? Or rather, did they push the surveillance bill by using the argument of Sony and other company breaches, instead of fortifying security standards and education about staying safe online (for example, creating secure passwords)?
Many American internet users do not want to wait to find out, and look for other ways to protect their privacy, such as VPN services that provide safe browsing experience and protect data privacy.