Negotiated in secret and tucked in legislation thousands of pages long, Congress is about to pass an awful surveillance bill under the guise of “cybersecurity” that could open the door to the NSA acquiring much more private information of Americans.
You may remember that Congress already passed the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act” (Cisa) last fall – a surveillance bill in cybersecurity’s clothing. It essentially carved a giant hole in all our privacy laws and gave technology and telecommunications companies a free hand to give all sorts of private information – including our emails – to the government without any court process whatsoever, as long as there was some sort of vague rationale involving “cybersecurity”.
But now the legislation has gotten even worse. Because the House and Senate passed slightly different versions, they had to be combined and voted on one more time – and, in negotiations, the bill’s most fervent supporters decided to strip away the (already really weak) privacy provisions from both the House and Senate versions. These protections, while wholly inadequate, were the only reasons that many members of Congress who would’ve otherwise opposed Cisa voted for it.
The latest version of the bill gives even more immunity from privacy lawsuits to companies like Google or Facebook or AT&T when they hand over your private information as long as there’s some vague “cybersecurity” reason – even if they commit gross negligence in handing it over. The bill also makes it much more likely that companies will hand any and all information directly to intelligence agencies like the NSA.
Not that we’ll know anything about what the companies do hand over: the new version also carves out an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act that prevents anyone from requesting data on the type of information requested or the amount that’s being handed over.
The most deplorable part about all of this is the underhanded anti-democratic way that all of this will inevitably becomes law. In a move that was supported by both the Republican majority in Congress and the Democratic White House, the bill formerly known as Cisa is now attached to the massive omnibus spending bill Congress has been negotiating for weeks, which is full of thousands of spending and tax provisions that have nothing to do with cybersecurity.
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Credit: The Guardian