Earlier this year, just as the House of Representatives seemed poised to pass the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, the White House stepped in and condemned the measure.
That move -- combined with a groundswell of opposition from digital rights groups, Web companies, law professors, Internet engineers and users -- helped shelve the proposed copyright law. SOPA, along with the Protect IP Act in the Senate, provided for court orders banning search engines from returning links to “rogue” sites and also empowered courts to prohibit credit card companies and ad networks from doing business with such sites. Opponents said the bills could have had a big impact on sites that hosted user-generated content, because the definition of "rogue" sites was extremely broad.
Now another pending bill, the Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, is riling civil liberties advocates, who say the bill could compromise users' privacy.
CISPA,proposed by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), allows companies to share information with other companies and the governments. The measure is aimed at helping companies defeat threats to the security of their networks. But critics say the bill has some extremely broad language that could result in broad-based surveillance for reasons unrelated to cybersecurity
The bill also could allow Internet service providers to tinker with network traffic, as long as they act in good faith. "This opens the door for ISPs and other companies to perform aggressive countermeasures like dropping or altering packets, so long as this is used as part of a scheme to identify cybersecurity threats," the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation warns. "These countermeasures could put free speech in peril, and jeopardize the ordinary functioning of the Internet. ... These countermeasures could even serve as a back door to enact policies unrelated to cybersecurity, such as disrupting p2p traffic."
Unlike the case with SOPA and Protect IP, tech companies aren't lining up against the bill. On the contrary, some Web companies, including Facebook, have voiced support for the measure.
Still, the roster of opponents might be growing. This week, the White House joined the list of opponents. "The nation’s critical infrastructure cyber vulnerabilities will not be addressed by information sharing alone," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Tuesday in a statement given to The Hill. "Legislation without new authorities to address our nation’s critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, or legislation that would sacrifice the privacy of our citizens in the name of security, will not meet our nation's urgent needs."