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Oppose CISPA? Act now, or forever hold your peace


Following the House of Representative’s passage of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) late last month, things have been fairly quiet on the opposition front. But that changes now — it must, or it will be too late to stop it.

CISPA — a bill that allows for extensive sharing of information between the Federal government and private businesses — has been wrapped into the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA), also known as the “Lieberman-Collins bill” for its two primary sponsors in the Senate, and officially known as S. 2105 (full bill text).

While CISPA was fairly short, at just around 20 pages, CSA is a sweeping, 200-page piece of legislation that includes many of the privacy problems inherent with CISPA. Namely, it allows for private companies to share vast amounts of data about you with the Federal government, and allows the government to use that information to go after nearly any crime, whether it’s related to cybersecurity or not. (This last bit is far worse in CSA than it was in CISPA’s final text.) Like CISPA, CSA allows the Department of Homeland Security to pass your information to shadowy military organizations like the National Security Administration, which has little to no public oversight. These are the main problems with CSA.

In addition, CSA establishes a government regulatory framework that would require businesses that run critical infrastructure networks (like electric grids and air traffic control systems) to meet certain security standards, which they would have to report to the DHS. This part of the bill is greatly opposed by Republicans in both the Senate and the House who don’t want greater government regulation. But it is also one of the primary requirements set by the Obama administration of any cybersecurity legislation that makes it to the president’s desk.

See a detailed rundown about CSA here.

CSA is opposed (pdf) by many of the same groups that fought against CISPA, for many of the same reasons. And now a new coalition, which includes Fight for the Future, Democrats.com, The Liberty Coalition, and the Entertainment Consumers Association, have created a new website, Privacy Is Awesome, which provides a number of easy-to-use tools for contacting your senators to inform them that you oppose CISPA/CSA, and want them to vote no when the bill goes up for a vote sometime in early June.

Privacy Is Awesome makes it easy to find out who your senators are (if you don’t already know), and delivers both their phone numbers and email addresses. However, sending an email really isn’t going to do much. So you’re going to have to call. This might be intimidating to many of you, but don’t worry. Your call will almost certainly be answered by an intern or another staff member, not your senator, so you don’t have to worry about fumbling your words while speaking to a Member of Congress. And here is a short script you can use, if you are struggling for what to say:

Hi. My name is _______. I am a [student/employee with _______ / mom/ dad, etc] and I oppose the Senate Bill S. 2105, or the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, because I believe it invades my privacy and would be harmful to the open Internet. I hope you will join me in opposition to this legislation if or when it comes up for a vote before the full Senate. Thank you so much for your time.

Of course, feel free to say whatever you feel comfortable saying. Just remember that the person answering the phone is only the messenger — no need to go into a diatribe with whomever has the unlucky job of answer the phone all day. And, as always, be respectful and courteous throughout your call.

The truth of the matter is that a large majority of the bills that make it all the way to a full vote on the Senate or House floor already have enough votes to pass. So the goal here, really, is for enough people to express opposition so that it never makes it to the Senate floor. Unfortunately, the Senate is on recess all next week, so you need to make your calls today and tomorrow, or the chance to stop the bill may have already passed.