Facebook defends CISPA support, completely misses the point

Facebook-defends-CISPA-support-completely-misses-the-point

Facebook released a statement today defending its support for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011, known as CISPA, a piece of cybersecurity legislation that critics say is dangerous to our privacy and civil liberties.

“One challenge we and other companies have had is in our ability to share information with each other about cyber attacks,” writes Joel Kaplan, Facebook Vice President of U.S. Public Policy, in a company blog post. “When one company detects an attack, sharing information about that attack promptly with other companies can help protect those other companies and their users from being victimized by the same attack. Similarly, if the government learns of an intrusion or other attack, the more it can share about that attack with private companies (and the faster it can share the information), the better the protection for users and our systems.”

CISPA would simply “make it easier for Facebook and other companies to receive critical threat data from the U.S. government,” writes Kaplan. And it does so without any “new obligations on us to share data with anyone –- and ensures that if we do share data about specific cyber threats, we are able to continue to safeguard our users’ private information, just as we do today.”

Kaplan also says that Facebook recognizes “that a number of privacy and civil liberties groups have raised concerns about the bill – in particular about provisions that enable private companies to voluntarily share cyber threat data with the government.” The problem, Kaplan writes, is that “companies will share sensitive personal information with the government in the name of protecting cybersecurity.” But he says that there’s no reason to worry, at least as far as Facebook is concerned, because “Facebook has no intention of doing this and it is unrelated to the things we liked about HR 3523 in the first place.”

Of course, all of that is very predictable — and entirely beside the point. While Kaplan is right, that critics are worried that CISPA would allow companies like Facebook to share private information about their users, that’s only part of the problem. Kaplan fails to mention that CISPA would eliminate any liability from companies who share information, as long as the information they share is not blatantly for some purpose other than to protect against “cyber threats” or defend “national security.” He also does not make it clear that CISPA would give Facebook and any other company the power to actively monitor all private communications, including email and private Facebook messages, as part of the process for protecting its system against cyber threats.

Moreover, it is not simply how Facebook or other companies will handle private user data that causes concern; it is how the government will use that information. The House Intelligence Committee announced a new version of CISPA, which removes some of the troublesome bits (most notably: any mention of “intellectual property”), but the new iteration of the bill sill lacks any serious privacy safeguards, and continues to allow the federal government to use the information collected from private entities for anything related to the every-ambiguous goal of “national security.”

The most worrisome part of Kaplan’s defense of CISPA is that the best argument he could come up with for why it is alright to give Facebook more power over our lives is: “trust us, we’re not going to do anything wrong.” I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: Trust should not be part of this equation. We should not have to trust that a private company — especially one that has an abysmal track record concerning user privacy — will do the right thing. A good cybersecurity bill would make it either impossible for companies to violate our privacy to the federal government, or impose staggering consequences for doing so. CISPA does neither — that’s why we despise this piece of legislation.

Sorry, Facebook. The fight against CISPA is far from over — trust me.

Product Review

Fascinating Finney phone is crypto in a nutshell: Exciting, but also terrifying

The Sirin Labs Finney phone is to cryptocurrency what the iPhone is to Apple Pay. It facilitates the payment, processing, and exchanging of cryptocurrencies on a smartphone, and surprisingly does it in a user-friendly way.
Deals

Protect your iPhone or iPad with the IPVanish VPN, on sale through February

One of our favorite virtual private networks for iPhones and iPads, IPVanish, is now offering a huge discount on its two-year subscription as part of its 7th-birthday promotion. Read on to find out more about how this VPN works and how you…
Smart Home

The Nest Secure included a microphone no one knew about — except Google

The Nest Secure home security system has had a microphone this entire time that no one knew about, except Google. The company claims the mic was never turned on, but customers are outraged.
Computing

Chrome is a fantastic browser, but is is still the best among new competitors?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Social Media

Periscope tool adds guests to feeds so streamers can become talk show hosts

Periscope users can now invite viewers to chime into the conversation with more than just the comment tool. By enabling the option to add guests, livestreamers can add guests to the conversation, in audio format only.
Photography

Crouching, climbing, and creeping, the perfect Instagram shot knows no bounds

Just how far will you go for the perfect Instagram? A recent survey shows just how willing Instagram users -- and Instagram husbands -- are to climb, lie down, embarrass themselves or let their food go cold for the perfect shot.
Social Media

Facebook’s long-promised ‘unsend’ feature arrives. Here’s how to use it

Send a message to the wrong person? Messenger now gives you 10 minutes to take it back. After an update beginning to roll out today, users can now retract messages if they act within the first 10 minutes after sending the message.
Social Media

YouTube boss admits even her own kids gave the ‘Rewind’ video a thumbs down

YouTube's 2018 Rewind video went down like a lead balloon at the end of last year, becoming the most disliked video in its history. And now YouTube's CEO has admitted that even her own kids thought it was pretty darn awful.
Social Media

Snapchat finally recovers from its redesign — so here comes an Android update

Snapchat's drop in users after launching a controversial redesign has finally stagnated. During the fourth quarter and 2018 earnings report, Snapchat shared that the company is rolling out an Android update designed to increase performance.
Social Media

Skype’s new ‘blur background’ feature could help keep you from blushing

Skype's latest feature for desktop lets you blur your background during video calls. The idea is that it keeps you as the focus instead of distracting others with whatever embarrassing things you might have on show behind you.
Social Media

Twitter users are declining but more people are seeing ads every day

Twitter's end-of-the-year report for 2018 is a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that more users are seeing adds daily, the metric the company will focus on moving forward. But the bad news is that monthly active users are…
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Computing

YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings. 
Social Media

LinkedIn finally gets around to launching its own live video tool

Live video is coming to LinkedIn for businesses and individuals on the site. The livestreaming feature is launching in beta in the U.S. before rolling out to the entire community.