Tech and civil liberty advocates have turned up the volume after the U.S. House tipped its hat to preparing for a “cyber week” on April 15th, which would include floor votes on its major bills, R&D, FISMA reform, and CISPA. Expect significant mark-up on CISPA the week of April 9th, immediately after Congress returns from Easter recess.
But, in watching all of this unfold, we take pause and consider the alternative: Does CISPA have a PR problem?
Mentioned last week, concerns over CISPA include (but are not limited to) its overly broad, ill-defined language. Its proponents insist that writing clear, prescriptive definitions that balance the needs for national security with an ever evolving technology is difficult. Well, you don’t say. As we’ve seen, the law has never been good at keeping pace with technology. Look at the ECPA, which in 1986, explicitly made attempts to be future-looking. It too is now undergoing significant reform.
What advocates of CISPA are failing to do is to reframe the conversation and to gain the support of the rest of Silicon Valley. From where we stand, this is a law that gives industry yet another leg-up. Just look at the list of supporters. More importantly, it creates additional hurdles for emerging companies who must convince their users that they are not sharing personal information with the government. Lastly, the bill’s public position works against the very ethos of a community built on open development and sharing.
But, advocates argue that they are addressing all of these concerns by considering additional definitions & examples; potentially removing escape clauses and loopholes identified by groups like the EFF; and, by clarifying that it would not permit unlimited liability to companies.
If this is indeed the case, it’s news to me.