A former executive at BitTorrent, Inc. known for inventing a highly successful credit card fraud detection technology has joined 50 other Internet professionals, educators, engineers, policy makers and entrepreneurs in beseeching Congress to abandon a bill that would merge corporate networks with the National Security Agency (NSA).
“Any time you’ve got a bill that has extensive powers and very vaguely worded definitions, that gives immunity to people for things that used to be illegal, you’ve got to look at how this bill could be used negatively,” Pettitt explained to Raw Story. “You’ve got to look at the history, and the history here is clear. The Patriot Act, for instance. If you give people broad powers, they’ll use them for things they were never intended for.”
Their letter cautions that Congress should not approve any legislation that “uses vague language” to describe IT threats and countermeasures, exempts “cybersecurity” efforts to relevant laws, provides immunity to private companies if they violate customers’ privacy or allows data to be collected in such a way that people who aren’t cyber criminals are swept up for other crimes.
That last item is of particular concern with CISPA because it defines “cyber threat intelligence” to include “theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.” That means corporations and the U.S. government would be able to spy on journalists and whistleblowers, or people who simply download copyrighted materials, with zero judicial oversight.
“Clearly, when you add intellectual property into a list of cyber threats, it immediately evokes specters of [the Stop Online Piracy Act] and all the other bizarre attempts to make copying bits into a criminal offense,” Pettitt added. “That’s not something you want to mix. National security and, ‘Did someone download a movie?’ are not the same thing.”
“By encouraging the transfer of users’ private communications to US Federal agencies, and lacking good public accountability or transparency, these ‘cybersecurity’ bills unnecessarily trade our civil liberties for the promise of improved network security,” the letter explains. “As experts in the field, we reject this false trade-off and urge you to oppose any cybersecurity initiative that does not explicitly include appropriate methods to ensure the protection of users’ civil liberties.”
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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