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Okay: Now Do You Realize Why CISPA's Granting Of Broad Immunity For Companies Sharing Data With The Feds Is An Issue?

Published: July 16, 2013
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You may recall that, back during the CISPA debate, one of our biggest concerns was the broad immunity from liability that the bill gave to tech companies if they shared data with the government -- including the NSA. Many people campaigned for limitations on that, including restricting what kind of information would be shared, and trying to keep that info away from the NSA. Of course, given the revelations over the last couple months about the amount of information sharing that already happens with the NSA and the DOJ/FBI, -- including giving zero day exploits to the government and building in backdoors -- it seems doubly worrisome what CISPA would allow.

And yet, people insisted that our worries about the broad liability protections were overblown, noting over and over again that it was "voluntary" and that companies wouldn't just give up their data like that. Yet, as we pointed out, if you give the ability to get this information to the government, the government will find a way to take it. And, from the various revelations, it's clear they were already taking it, and the purpose of CISPA may have been to just to further protect these companies from liability.

In the recent Washington Post profile of NSA boss Keith Alexander, it ends with a detailed description of how Alexander has been pushing for more direct control over internet company networks, which should give you a pretty clear suggestion of how the NSA intended to use CISPA:
At a private meeting with financial industry officials a few years ago, Alexander spoke about the proliferation of computer malware aimed at siphoning data from networks, including those of banks. The meeting was described by a participant who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussion was off the record.

His proposed solution: Private companies should give the government access to their networks so it could screen out the harmful software. The NSA chief was offering to serve as an all-knowing virus-protection service, but at the cost, industry officials felt, of an unprecedented intrusion into the financial institutions’ databases.

The group of financial industry officials, sitting around a table at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, were stunned, immediately grasping the privacy implications of what Alexander was politely but urgently suggesting. As a group, they demurred.
Now, some may argue that it would be crazy to interpret CISPA liability protections from leading to that sort of situation, but given how the NSA has pushed for incredibly broad interpretations of other laws, how crazy is it really?

Given all of this, one hopes it means that CISPA is officially dead in the water.

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