CISPA – are tech giants backing off nervously?

2 May 2012

The CISPA internet surveillance bill in the US – which looked like it had the unanimous support of tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft – appears to be losing support or causing rifts in the industry. Mozilla has become the first tech company to speak out against the legislation.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was cleared last week in the US House of Representatives, 248 to 168.

According to Forbes, Mozilla issued the following statement: “While we wholeheartedly support a more secure internet, CISPA has a broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond internet security.

“The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse. We hope the Senate takes the time to fully and openly consider these issues with stakeholder input before moving forward with this legislation,” Mozilla said.

And in recent days, reports emerged that Microsoft was wavering in its support of the bill. However, the Seattle software giant seemed to rediscover its backbone.

Either way, it seems CISPA could prove to be divisive for the tech industry and its sudden media attention could attract the same frenzied opposition as SOPA and PIPA did earlier this year.

According to The Next Web, Microsoft issued the following statement: “Microsoft’s position remains unchanged. We supported the work done to pass cybersecurity bills last week in the House of Representatives and look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders as the Senate takes up cybersecurity legislation.”

So remind us, what is CISPA?

The bill, introduced by Republican Rep Mike Rogers, ostensibly aims to protect and limit the US government’s power to cyber snoop for security reasons but in fact adds new powers.

Internet giants Microsoft and Facebook are actual proponents of the bill because it means they can pool information to better defend against cyber attacks and bring spammers, hackers and data thieves to justice.

But those against the bill argue it gives internet companies the right to send users’ information to the US government.

On the pretext of a “cyber security” threat, the US government will have powers to search information with impunity.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years