The United States Congress is using sneaky tactics to bring a controversial cyber surveillance bill into discussion. Late on Tuesday night, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan announced a 2,000 page omnibus budget bill as a last minute compromise to prevent a shutdown of the government. Deep into the enormous bill revealed the entire text of the highly controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015. This act passed through the Senate last October.
Since its introduction to Congress in 2014, CISA has been heavily criticized. It would make it easier for companies in the private sector to share personal user information with the government and other companies by removing privacy and liability protections. Those in favor of the bill say that it would improve cybersecurity. Critics argue that it would convert the internet into a tool of surveillance for the government and that there would no longer be any incentive to respect the privacy of internet users.
In fact, the bill in the House is even more invasive than the one that passed through the Senate. The current bill removed many critical provisions that would have prevented the direct sharing of information with the National Security Agency, as well as requirements that would have mandated that personal data be anonymized before it was distributed.
Campaign director of Fight for the Future Evan Greer said, “It’s clear now that this bill was never intended to prevent cyberattacks. It’s a disingenuous attempt to quietly expand the US government’s surveillance programs."
With the proposal late on Tuesday, it’s looking more likely that CISA will eventually be put into law. Although the bill is highly controversial in the technology community, it is largely viewed as a secondary matter for American lawmakers, who are more concerned about the new budget proposal and a possible government shutdown.
Needless to say, Paul Ryan got extremely sneaky when it came to getting this bill into discussion. He took full advantage of the government’s urgency and fear of a shutdown to get his way. Unfortunately for supporters of privacy, the bill is expected to pass sometime this week, as little attention is expected to be paid to the provisions of cybersecurity.