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Article posted May 02 2012, 6:31 AM Category: Commentary Source: Wendy McElroy Print

Political Capitalism in Action

by Wendy McElroy

On April 26, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 248 to 168. CISPA seeks to grease the sharing of data about people between government and big business. CISPA states,
The Director of National Intelligence shall establish procedures to allow elements of the intelligence community to share cyber threat intelligence with private-sector entities and utilities and to encourage the sharing of such intelligence. [PDF]
The bill eliminates such information barriers as the need for court orders or warrants before a company can give a customer’s personal data to the government with impunity. Under CISPA, anyone whose data is accessed or used inappropriately cannot sue, and so abuse carries no penalty. Facebook can and will provide the government with full access to users’ accounts, and in return Facebook will receive classified government information.

In theory, the data tap turns on whenever an individual is suspected of engaging in certain illegal activities. Which illegal activities are targeted? In its original form, CISPA vaguely referred to threats against “national security” or “cyber security.” A later amendment broadened the scope: for example, it allows data to be accessed and shared when it is deemed necessary to protect individuals and children.

In practice, however, if the government or a business wants to access data for any reason, it will be easy to find a pretext. CISPA de facto repeals the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.

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