The problem is, the bill they’re laser-focused on is misguided, wouldn’t protect us — and is a huge gift to companies wanting legal cover if and when they choose to violate Americans’ privacy rights.
In March, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 14–1 in favor of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA). The bill, like its infamous predecessor CISPA, would allow companies to share vast amounts of users’ private and personally identifiable data with the government. That information would go straight to the Department of Homeland Security and then on to the NSA.
If CISA passes, companies would be permitted to monitor and then report to the government on vaguely defined “cyber-threat indicators” — a term so broad that it covers actual threats hackers pose to computer systems but also sweeps in information on crimes like carjacking and burglaries. Those are serious offenses to be sure, but they have nothing to do with cybersecurity.
While current law allows companies to monitor their own systems for cyber threats, CISA would take this to the next level. The bill would allow companies that hold huge swaths of our personal data — like health insurers and credit-card companies — to monitor and report online activity “notwithstanding any other provision of law.”
This means that CISA would undermine the strong protections embedded in laws like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and the Privacy Act of 1964 — laws designed to keep the government from spying on our communications.
While posing a serious threat to our privacy online, CISA wouldn’t even guard well against cyber attacks. The bill offers a bad trade-off, to put it mildly.