What is the Cybersecurity Intelligence Act and how does it Affect your Privacy?

 

The Cybersecurity Intelligence Act is that bill that was introduced into Congress under tremendous opposition. The general theme of the bill in its original form from 2011 called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). These two bills were intended to grant the Government the ability to ‘investigate cyber threats’ and ‘ensure the security of networks against cyber-attacks.’ But CISPA was denied a vote on the Senate floor but the Senate introduced CISA recently as its own form of ‘cyber protection’ and its language was added into a seemingly benign budget bill. The CISA bill puts an emphasis on the companies sharing information with the government. While there are ‘provisions’ for protecting personal data, that has not cooled the apprehension that the powers will be abused. Companies that share the data do have an exemption that if they unknowingly share personal data, then they do not face any backlash or legal issues.

So how does CISA affect the average citizen? There is genuine concern that while the abuse would not happen in the upcoming years, but as technology and its backchannels develop into the future, there is the concern that the next generations may suffer from the Government’s misuse. A simple example of the abuse would be: let’s say that the government mandates that all reading material must be viewed on a tablet and outlaws printed material. If your internet search history has a purchase of your favorite book in printed form, you would be in violation of that made up law against printed works. Although this example is unlikely, consider the information that companies share with the government contains your personal data: name, age, location and even internet browsing habits. All these materials can be stored and used for ‘blackmailing’ the accused.

This is even more of a concern because there are several unanswered questions in the Bill. For example, where does the information get stored? How many people have access to the information? If the personal information is deemed unnecessary, is it stored or destroyed? The Fourth Amendment allows each citizen to be secure in their persons, places, papers and effects, and that shall not be violated unless upon probable cause with an issued warrant or through an exigent circumstance.

The United Nations has passed a resolution that promotes and protects the rights of individuals on the internet. The premise is that the rights that are available online (specifically the freedom of speech and expression) should not be abridged online. The resolution is a response to bloggers and posters on online forums who were being threatened and some even killed for expressing their opinion online. While this resolution is not legally binding, it put pressure on countries to maintain fair law and prevent unlawful persecution.

While CISA may be an issue in the near future, the powers belonging to the government are being utilized now. The best way to protect yourself from Government (or even private intrusion) is to be aware of your online presence. For example, you may have signed up on a website with the “Login with Facebook” option. This is an example of using Facebook’s tracking feature. Using this feature, Facebook would have the ability to tailor certain advertisements on your news feed. It is also important that users be aware of their privacy options. Users can block or remove individuals who may use your pictures or posts against you, especially in a lawsuit. To safeguard yourself, attorney Megan Spidell has compiled a list of ways to secure your privacy settings:

  • Instagram: In the settings area, turn on the “Private Account” option. This will notify you when someone wants to Follow and see your picture postings. Note that your current followers can still see your postings.
  • Facebook: Click the “Settings” icon, then navigate to the “Privacy” option, and finally “Who can see my stuff.” You can change the option from “Public” to “Friends” and just recently “Close Friends.”
  • Snapchat: You have the ability to block any person that may be looking for evidence against you. By going to the “Settings” area, you can select (in the “Who Can…”) “Contact Me” or “View my Story.”

 

Other ways to protect yourself online is to sparingly post. However, sometimes your friends and family can post things on their timeline with you tagged in it. Either “untag” yourself or kindly ask them to remove the post or picture. Don’t post pictures or videos to your Snapchat story and try not to “Location tag” yourself when posting online. Remember, things posted online can be used against you in the Court and may actually hurt you in your proceedings.