Currently, Internet Service Providers don’t have to divulge information about any user’s activities to the government – not unless given a court order. CISPA, which was just passed by the House, attempts to change this, effectively allowing ISPs to share that information freely with any government entity that smiles sweetly and says “Please.” Or, rather, “NOW.”
Previously, CISPA allowed the government to use information for “cybersecurity” or “national security” purposes. Those purposes have not been limited or removed. Instead, three more valid uses have been added: investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crime, protection of individuals, and protection of children. Cybersecurity crime is defined as any crime involving network disruption or hacking, plus any violation of the CFAA.
Basically this means CISPA can no longer be called a cybersecurity bill at all. The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a “cybersecurity crime”. Basically it says the 4th Amendment does not apply online, at all. Moreover, the government could do whatever it wants with the data as long as it can claim that someone was in danger of bodily harm, or that children were somehow threatened—again, notwithstanding absolutely any other law that would normally limit the government’s power.
It’s not just for safety anymore – it’s for the children.
If you’d like to read/download/print/use as toilet paper the text of the bill itself, it’s here at rules.house.gov.
As it states, if the crime involves — not “focuses on,” but simply involves — “efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy a system or network,” it’s fair game under CISPA. Nothing clarifies what it means to “degrade” or “disrupt.” I’m no lawyer, but if someone wanted to get technical, they might be able to say that anyone’s use of any network could be considered disruptive. That tiny bit of pressure you put on the server, just by accessing it? Why, those are resources that could have been allocated elsewhere, or not at all. After all, a DDoS attack is nothing but an oversaturation of communication requests — regular use is therefore, let’s say, one millionth of a DDoS attack.
Is this argument completely stupid and facetious?
Which is exactly why I’m afraid someone’s going to use it.
I’m annoyed that laws don’t have to be necessary anymore. They don’t even have to make sense anymore. The people who write them and vote on them don’t even have to read them, or know what they mean, or comprehend the implications. SOPA was like that. And PIPA, and ACTA. It’s almost a novel idea to them to suggest that they should make an informed decision — after all, they’re not nerds. And knowing what you’re talking about — being an expert in any way — is somehow a Bad Thing. It’s snobbish and elitist to even want people to go to college, much less to argue against whopping increases in tuition compounded with decreased state funding topped with higher interest rates from student loans (from which there is no forgiveness, even if you declare bankruptcy.) The world – and my personal potential to learn – was never more open to me than when I finally had a high-speed connection to the Internet. Almost anything I wanted to learn was out there somewhere. I could find music I’d forgotten forever ago, rediscover nostalgic bits of my childhood, find obscure things that were not physically accessible anywhere around me. It was a great time to be a curious nerd. And, as the “Web 2.0” revolution rolled around, more firmly integrating social networking into practically everything ever, it became even easier to share anything with anyone. The nerds AND the normals could share and participate and generate their own content, and remix and recontextualize others’ content. All of this doesn’t mean we’ve given up our privacy. It means that the ways we learn and communicate online now more closely mimic – and more boldly extrapolate upon – the ways we learn and communicate everywhere else.
But suddenly, it’s becoming a terrible time to be a nerd. (And especially to be a poor nerd.) Despite the fact that the Internet is an integral part of our societal fabric, helping to interconnect disparate patches of the world, and even – in strange ways – weave its own thread into a cultural fabric all of its own, lawmakers are trying to protect us by pulling out random stitches. By putting thimbles not on certain sensitive fingers, but on the needles themselves. Not comprehending how this can unravel everything while also compromising the ability to sew even the “good” parts back together again. Arguing in the name of safety and protection and the good of the children — which just so happens to also be the best interest of companies, lobbyists, and the lawmakers’ investments.
I feel like I’ll someday be telling my niece(s/nephew[s]?) about the good old days of the Internet, when anyone could make a website, it was easy to share files of any kind, people understood that things should be cheaper when you didn’t have to make physical objects or ship things to stores anymore, and you didn’t have to pay extra or wait a long time to get to an unpopular website. When you didn’t have to use your real name on every website. When you could opt out of having some of your information stored, and when nobody could come and take it unless they had a real legal reason.
Then again, I also feel like I’ll be telling them that when they’re a good bit older, as I help them set up proxy accounts to access the roving darknet drones which thrum, autonomous, through the atmosphere, possibly relaying to the small satellites launched at low cost by a bevy of commercial space operations. I’ll be telling them how we used to access the Internet through phone lines — and stopping, slightly redfaced, to explain what a phone line was. I’ll be telling them about my silly old GeoCities webpages, and about the friends I met and kept in touch with through AIM. I’ll be telling them how my love story of meeting in a virtual world was weird and confusing to most people at the time — and how that world wasn’t just an augmented reality overlay you were always tapped into, but something all its own and tethered to your computer. (Which was a big box maybe six inches wide, a foot and a half tall, a foot and a half long, which you had to keep on or under your desk, and you used a keyboard with actual moving keys, and this thing called a mouse, for input.)
Or it will all be something I can’t even comprehend right now.
Or it will all be over, because we’ll have had some kind of massive revolution by then.
Still, given a choice between a post-apocalyptic style life as some off-the-grid goatherder and a dystopian society of clean, comfortable surveillance… I’m goin’ for the goats.