The US might begin spying on citizens in the name of cybersecurity

The US might begin spying on citizens in the name of cybersecurity
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The US Senate has voted 74-21 to pass the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a bill that will allow tech companies to share user data with government agencies — dealing a blow to citizens’ privacy.

CISA has not yet become law. Similar legislation has been passed by the House of Representatives. Both versions must now enter a conference committee before being presented to President Obama for approval.

The proposed act, which aims ‘to improve cybersecurity’ in the US, will encourage companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter to share information that may contain a ‘cyber threat indicator’ with the Department of Homeland Security without a warrant, which in turn can pass it on freely to the National Security Agency (NSA).

The issue with CISA is that it doesn’t include safeguards to prevent companies from sharing irrelevant personal data. So if you’ve sent emails, messages and tweets thinking only you and the recipient can see them, think again.

Last week, Apple told The Washington Post, “We don’t support the current CISA proposal. The trust of our customers means everything to us and we don’t believe security should come at the expense of their privacy.”

Gizmodo notes that recent attacks, like the one on the Office of Personnel Management in which over 21 million records were accessed, have the Senate worried and hence eager to pass cybersecurity bills like CISA, no matter how intrusive they are. But it could lead to more problems for citizens than anyone bargained for.

Gabe Rottman, legislative counsel in the ACLU Washington Legislative Office said:

This bill will make our digital lives both less secure and less private. It will funnel an enormous amount of sensitive information into government hands, where it can be used in cases that have nothing to do with cybersecurity. The government will be able to use this private data for programs that look exactly like the mass NSA surveillance revealed over the past several years. We thank those senators who sought to improve the bill, and especially those who opposed it outright, but this is a bad day for civil liberties.

Unfortunately, it looks like CISA might indeed become law — President Obama has already endorsed the bill and indicated in August that he wants to sign it.

US Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress – 1st Session [United States Senate via Gizmodo]

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