Civil Liberties

Fickle Friends of Online Freedom

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Now, more Internet-ty.

Not long ago, online civil liberties organizations joined hands with tech companies to support a grassroots movement that stopped (at least, for now) the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—a pernicious bit of legislation that would have regulated what Websites could advertise and where they could link in the name of protecting copyright. But rather than a long-term relationship, the alliance was but a brief fling. With their eyes now focused on defeating the equally odious Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, electronic civil libertarians find that their old suitors have slipped out early for a cup of coffee without so much as a promise to call later.

Writes Politico:

SOPA, backed by the movie and music industries, would have cracked down on online piracy, making it harder for users to get cheap entertainment online. CISPA is aimed at combatting cyberattacks by encouraging private companies to share information about cyberthreats with the government. More important, the tech companies that battled against SOPA and helped foster protests through their social media platforms aren't up in arms about CISPA.

Facebook, for example, is supporting it.

The article makes the valid point that, in this tweet-tastic world of ours, in which people can and do willingly broadcast their locations to the world via social media and the GPS functions in their smartphones, and in which relationship status is a common feature of online profiles (Want to give your significant other a scare? Change your status to: "it's complicated."), privacy just isn't the same sort of crowd-rouser as free speech.

Civil libertarians aren't giving up, though. The Electronic Frontier Foundation warns that CISPA and its ilk are a step beyond the status quo, since they could create a situation in which companies gather that juicy information we put online and "ship that data wholesale to the government or anyone else provided they claim it was for 'cybersecurity purposes.'"

That means a company like Google, Facebook, Twitter, or AT&T could intercept your emails and text messages, send copies to one another and to the government, and modify those communications or prevent them from reaching their destination if it fits into their plan to stop "cybersecurity" threats.

Will that be enough to win back old allies and the fickle public? Well, we all know how hard it is to rekindle a relationship.

More information from the Center for Democracy and Technology on "cybersecurity" legislation here.