The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) has been passed into law by President Barack Obama, and many security experts are calling it the second coming of the Patriot Act. The act includes provisions that essentially function as loopholes in privacy laws which will allow intelligence officials and law enforcement to conduct surveillance without a warrant.
The act, which passed through the Senate in October, had drawn heavy criticism from many technology companies, including Apple, Twitter and Reddit. This month, lawmakers were ultimately able to get the controversial act to pass through Congress by including it in the Omnibus $1.1 trillion Spending Bill. With lawmakers much more concerned about preventing a possible government shutdown, the CISA provision went largely unnoticed. The need to pass the spending bill as quickly as possible also prevented any major debate regarding CISA.
Worryingly, the final version of CISA removed even more privacy protections than the previous versions. By lumping the act in with a major spending bill, Congress has dealt a crushing blow to privacy advocates. The act creates the ability for the president to establish “portals” for various agencies such as the FBI and the National Intelligence Agency. These portals will force companies to hand over information directly to law enforcement and intelligence agencies rather than the Department of Homeland Security.
Additionally, the revised version of the act permits shared information to be utilized in a greater number of law enforcement investigations. The previous bill would have only allowed the usage of such information in cases of “imminent threats”. With the revision, “specific threats” will constitute enough reason to use such data.
Many senators, including Ron Wyden and Richard Burr, lashed out against the bill, writing that the bill has become even more invasive with its revisions.
Senator Burr wrote, “Americans deserve policies that protect both their security and their liberty. This bill fails on both counts.”
Privacy advocate Robyn Green said, “They’ve got this bill that’s kicked around for years and had been too controversial to pass, so they’ve seen an opportunity to push it through without debate. And they’re taking that opportunity. They’re kind of pulling a Patriot Act.”
Needless to say, the government acted in a disgustingly sneaky manner to destroy the online privacy protections of United States Citizens.