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WAPO Ignores Privacy Concerns In Rallying Cry For CISPA

Jesselyn Radack, April 22, 2013

The Washington Post features an editorial singing the praises of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), an innocent-enough sounding law that passed the House last week, but permits private corporations unprecedented sharing of Americans' private data (such as internet activity and e-mail content) with the government, including the National Security Agency.

It is no surprise the WaPo editorial board took the position it did on CISPA, a position the paper is certainly entitled to take. But it is disingenuous to spend extra ink on the fear-mongering "urgency" of the cyber "threats" while summarily dismissing the valid privacy concerns of the White House and countless civil liberties and internet rights groups. WaPo opined:

Despite efforts to strengthen privacy measures, the bill has been criticized by civil liberties advocates and Mr. Obama has threatened to veto it.

Congress voted down many of the so-called "efforts to strengthen privacy measures," and while some modest improvements to the bill survived the cyber-fear-mongering assault in Congress, the major privacy concerns were left unaddressed. Michelle Richardson of the ACLU put it in simple terms:

The core problem is that CISPA allows too much sensitive information to be shared with too many people in the first place, including the National Security Agency.

The civil liberties groups opposing the bill include my organization, the Government Accountability Project, and the privacy concerns deserve more than a throwaway line. Over thirty groups explainedCISPA's privacy problems to Congress:

CISPA creates an exception to all privacy laws to permit companies to share our information with each other and with the government in the name of cybersecurity. . . .CISPA’s information sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like internet records or the content of emails, to any agency in the government including military and intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency or the Department of Defense Cyber Command.

To his credit, Obama has threatened to veto the bill for similar privacy concerns:

The Administration, however, remains concerned that the bill does not require private entities to take reasonable steps to remove irrelevant personal information when sending cybersecurity data to the government or other private sector entities. Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held accountable – and not granted immunity – for failing to safeguard personal information adequately.

Internet rights groups also oppose CISPA, are staging an Internet blackout today to protest the bill. If your favorite website is blacked out today, here's why:

Hacking group Anonymous asked websites to black out their front pages on Monday, in protest against legislation in the U.S. that would allow online companies and government agencies to more easily share personal information.

Reddit has a list of actions individuals can take to stop CISPA.

Too often, we ignore privacy while we enjoy it, and it has not served us well in the past 12 years. It's time to put privacy above the fear mongering.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Kos.

Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.