You may, or may not be aware of a new little bit of legislation known as CISPA or The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. If you are In the know then you realise how terrible this act is and if you’re not, allow me to introduce it to you and to let you know why it is a very dangerous piece of legislation.
So what is CISPA?
CISPA is unlike any other piece of legislation that the US has ever seen, although the public outcry has not been dissimilar to what we saw around SOPA. The big difference however is that CISPA hasn’t only made it into the house of representatives, it was voted on and passed yesterday, the day before it was scheduled to be.
The main premise of the act seems to be in response to the massive increase in ‘hacktivist’ activity that we have seen in the recent months and years as well as the ever present threat of terrorism. On the whole, the Internet is a place where it is easy to communicate in private and anonymously, meaning that it has been used for much scrupulous behaviour, social media played a part in the riots over here in England last year and as a whole the Internet has been used for both cyber crime as well as by organisations with terrorist links. The aim of CISPA is to try and prevent this by granting the government the power to watch closely over everything a person discusses which could lead to them being considered a threat. It would be done thanks to the cooperation of major approved companies, giving the government access to information such as private email.
But what’s the problem?
While the stated aim of the act as a preventative measure in the fights against cyber crime and terrorism makes perfect sense and is arguably necessary in the times that we live, the main problem with the act is not dissimilar to the problems which most people had with SOPA, mainly that it is poorly worded, with little definition as to what would give the government the right to go all ‘big brother’ on your private life. The act essentially has no real stated boundaries and while something does need to be done, generalisation isn’t the right way to do it, sometimes there will be a real reason that the powers that be would need to be able to get at this information covertly, but these situations should be clearly defined and acceptable.
This lack of definition should definitely set alarm bells ringing as it leads to the line being massively blurred as to what is and isn’t acceptable for the government to know about you and your personal life. At the end of the day that’s what it is, your life no one else’s, if you don’t want Uncle Sam going through your text messages, emails and even Xbox live conversations, then he should have to keep his nose out, unless he has a really serious reason to think that he needs to. Not to mention that the proposed Act will also over ride pre existing laws including laws on privacy and surveillance.
And how can this effect me and you?
As with SOPA, there is a lot of big companies backing the act, again it can be argued that they have an interest in national security, but at the same time why is it so unbelievable that they would not have their own agenda, all big business could benefit from having access to your personal information, which could include Facebook information and even Google searches, and while massive abuse of the system would be unlikely, without set boundaries it remains a real possibility.
This is after all a gaming site so primarily we should focus on what this could mean for you as a gamer. One of the biggest companies backing the act is Microsoft, a huge multinational company who make a lot of money from gaming, both Xbox and PC. they have access to a lot of your information and also a big interest in knowing what you get up to. Whether it be for financial reasons or just to know what you’re doing with your console, it is valuable information.
With the act having been slyly rushed through the House of Representatives a day early and already having been approved there, no, what you can actually do is very limited but the power of people has got our point across before and we can do it again. Writing to your representative and pointing out that you are not pleased still gets the message across, as does campaigning across the Internet whether it be a hashtag or whatever you want, making the point that this kind of involvement from your government isn’t right, don’t forget that invasion of privacy is illegal, no matter who it is invading that privacy. As for hope? The President himself has already stated that no matter how far the act goes, he will veto it, the man either understands what the people want or right from wrong.