On December 18th 2015, a majority of U.S. senators voted to pass an omnibus spending bill which happened to include an updated version of the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA). The new bill allows for new channels to be established between government agencies and private businesses that will share client information with the National Security Agency (NSA) and law enforcement. It also allows for information that is unrelated to cybersecurity to be shared with government agencies, and many big businesses have come around to supporting the bill because of the provided liability protection for corporations who decide to share information with the government.
CISA had previously gained widespread negative attention for the seeming detriment it would pose to online privacy. Many civil liberties advocates and citizens around the world were dedicated to raising awareness about the bill and to telling their representatives to vote against it. The bill previously failed to make passage and many thought perhaps that it would be the last time they would hear about it. Unfortunately, it wasn't over and lawmakers were able to revamp the bill, allegedly stripping it of almost all of its privacy protections.
In the fall of 2015, an earlier draft of the CISA bill had managed to pass the Senate, however this newly passed version is said to be a much more invasive version that lawmakers plugged into a tedious budget bill that was sure to pass. The night before Congress passed the bill, it's alleged that they attended a party with the chief lobbyists for the bill. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the one which acted as the chief private sector advocate for CISA.
The recent budget bill that CISA was incorporated into, was set to be the bill which would determine whether or not the government would face a “shut down,” as it did back in 2013. The budget contains a variety of measures which allocate funding in order to make the country run. It's no surprise then that the bill received passage, even though the bill has been stripped of many of the already weak privacy protections which remained. The new version allows for the government to harvest personal online data, given to it from various corporations, which it can then sift through and use to bring criminal charges against citizens. It can do this even if the information is unrelated to cyber crimes, as it can now use the information to prosecute any type of criminal activity.
The bill finally made its way to President Obama and he quickly signed the measure. The $1.1 trillion recently passed budget will also include a spending increase for the military, and it is increasingly being referred to as the second Patriot Act. It's clear that widespread spying and bulk data harvesting isn't going anywhere, despite the public outcry to halt these practices.
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