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Draconian cyber security bill could lead to Internet surveillance and censorship

April 12, 2012

Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (CISPA), the cyber security bill now before the US Congress.

In the name of the war on cyber crime, it would allow the government and private companies to deploy draconian measures to monitor, even censor, the Web. It might even be used to close down sites that publish classified files or information.

“Freedom of expression and the protection of online privacy are increasingly under threat in countries with a democratic reputation, where a series of bills and draft laws is sacrificing them in the interests of national security or copyright,” Reports Without Borders said.

“A blanket monitoring system is never an appropriate solution, nor is blocking or censoring websites that disclose information that is classified but of public interest. Reporters Without Borders opposes CISPA and ask Congress to reject this legislation.

“The organization recently highlighted Britain’s Orwellian bill, and France’s aspirations to make visiting websites that advocate terrorism or violence a crime. “

CISPA is aimed at promoting the exchange of information between the authorities and the private sector to facilitate the detection of, and the fight against, cyber crime. However, it would allow the US government and private companies — service and technical providers – to install systems to monitor communications, or even close down or block access to websites.

The bill would allow companies protecting themselves “to use cyber security systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information”. Such vaguely defined systems could also mean monitoring, blocking or filtering systems.

The definition of potential threats is even broader. It targets ‘‘efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy” a system or network, the “theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information”.

Websites that publish classified information, from the New York Times to WikiLeaks, could fall within the scope of the legislation, according to the US digital rights organizationElectronic Frontier Foundation.

Collecting and sharing information arouses major concerns over the protection of privacy and personal information. CISPA would provide a way of circumventing existing privacy legislation.

Questioned about the bill, a spokesman for the Center for Democracy and Technology — a non-profit group that campaigns for Internet freedom — told Reporters Without Borders: "CISPA, in its current form, is alarmingly broad in scope. Companies should only be permitted to share narrow categories of information with the government that precisely describe a real cyber security threat. Information-sharing should be about increasing Internet users’ security, not government surveillance."

The bipartisan bill was introduced on 30 November by two members of the House of Representatives, Republican Mike Rogers and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, a Democrat, as an amendment for the 1947 National Security Act, and received the approval of the House Intelligence Committee the following day.

The next stage is a vote in the full House. At the end of March, Rogers announced he had garnered support for the bill from more than 100 members of Congress, Democrats as well as Republicans.

Two previous bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), aimed at protecting intellectual property on the Web, were resisted by Silicon Valley but key Web players such as Facebook, Microsoft, IBM and AT&T have announced their support for CISPA.

For more information contact:
Reporters without Borders
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84

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