Twenty-two of the world’s top technology companies are firmly against the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (Cisa) due to soon go to a crucial vote on the floor of the US Senate, according to a new poll by internet activists Fight for the Future.
A major critic of the legislation, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden claimed that the weight of tech companies aligned against the bill proved that the legislation was not fit for purpose:
“Sharing information about cybersecurity threats is a worthy goal… [but if]…you share more information without strong privacy protections, millions of Americans will say, ‘That is not a cybersecurity bill. It is a surveillance bill.’ “
Cisa is aimed at tightening online security but has been criticized as infringing on civil liberties and privacy. If passed into law, the Cisa bill would give more freedom for the government to access user data. The bill would allow private industry to share user information with the Department of Homeland Security, which would then be compelled to share it to “relevant government agencies”, such as the FBI, NSA, and any other as yet unspecified government agency that requests Cisa information…
While many of those who support the bill claim that companies obligations to Cisa would be voluntary, Wired.com alluded to other “voluntary” programs that mandate the kind of data reported is in fact entirely compulsory.
One of the original sponsors of the Cisa, Dianne Feinstein, another Democratic Senator, is adamant that the Cisa is purely a means for companies to share potential cyber threats with the US government, and would not have direct access to information such as passwords, addresses, or social security numbers.
Homeland Security are against Cisa as well…
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of all the political debate is the fact that even Even the Department of Homeland Security, the government agency that would be tasked with assimilating all the resulting informations from the Cisa bill, has come out very strongly against it, stating that it could ‘sweep away important privacy protections.’
And if even they’re saying Cisa is a bad idea, the question has to asked, why is anyone still persisting with trying to pass the Cisa legislation in the first place?
But it is not just the tech companies who are against the new legislation.
Apple comes out big against Cisa
Apple, along with several other companies such as Facebook, and Google who were originally either in favor of the bill, or had no opinion, released a statement to the Washington Post, saying:
“The trust of our customers means everything to us and we don’t believe security should come at the expense of their privacy.”
Apple, Google and Facebook’s move may not be as altruistic as it seems however. Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer said she considered it far more likely that tech companies had seen the way the wind was blowing on public opinion and simply changed their minds.
“I think these companies recognize that this is a supremely unpopular piece of legislation among their users,” she said. “Internet users have been opposing this kind of legislation for years; I think the Senate should consider that the same users that led revolts against these companies are also voters.”
Senator Wyden concluded his address to the Senate with the following line:
“There is a saying now in the cybersecurity field, Mr. President: if you can’t protect it, don’t collect it…If more personal consumer information flows to the government without strong protections, my view is that’s going to be a prime target for hackers.”
Fight for the Future’s Greer said that entrusting so much sensitive information to the hands of the government at a time when its own IT security can be hacked seemingly at will was fundamentally a bad idea.
According to Fight For The Future’s poll findings, there are still 12 large companies still backing the bill or have not confirmed or denied their stance one way or the other. The names include firms such as HP, Cisco and Intel.