Sleazy business: CISPA ‘pushed by spy & tech companies for profit'

With the House of Representatives set to vote on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) next week, David Seaman, the host of “The DL Show”, tells RT why Google and Facebook won’t help Americans to kill this act.

­The White House has voiced concerns over the controversial cyber-security bill, which in December passed the House Intelligence Committee with an overwhelming vote of 17-1. Opposition from the Obama administration stopped short of a veto threat, saying that the legislation should not sacrifice the privacy of Americans in the name of security.

Over 680,000 people have signed an anti-CISPA Web petition since several US rights groups launched a "Stop Cyber Spying" campaign on Tuesday.

Sponsors of the bill say CISPA is intended to improve computer security by allowing companies and government agencies to share sensitive information. But journalist David Seaman tells RT most Americans won’t want the regulation.

RT: To be fair, there are countless scary-sounding bills frequently floating around Congress that stand some chance to become law. Why should we care about this one?

David Seaman: CISPA is a very real threat. It stands a very good chance of becoming law within a very short period of time. It has over 100 co-sponsors in Congress. Unlike SOPA, which led to huge online outrage from the public and tech companies alike, this one actually has the support of key tech companies.

With the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which failed, there was a petition linked to the Google home page. Major web properties including Reddit and Wikipedia went dark to protest it. They are probably not going to do so this time.

The White House has expressed concerns, but don’t let that reassure you too much. They also expressed concerns about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and then Obama signed it into law on the New Year’s Eve.

RT: Why have such companies as Facebook and Google not come out against this legislation? What’s in it for them?

DS: Whenever you are gathering data, it is a potential business model, and a sleazy one in my opinion. You can sell it to the government or privately-held security companies and make money over it, so it is a revenue stream.

Furthermore, I think these big tech companies love the litigation immunity.

We are talking very private information here: the websites you visit; the searches you make; if you are doing research on a personal medical condition; if you are sending private emails to your spouse or anybody else. These emails could be seen by a number of people. The litigation immunity protects these companies from being sued.

RT: Are you saying that Congress is intentionally trying to screw over American freedoms for privacy, speech and information?

DS: From people I have spoken to online it really sounds that when you contact your member of Congress and say “I don’t want CISPA. It is not good for the Internet, for economy or for privacy,” their responses approach detached amusement. They don’t really care what you think at this point. It freaks many people out and for a good reason.  

RT:What about defense contractor lobbyists on the Hill pushing for this legislation?

DS: The Internet works pretty well without special regulations, so regular citizens would not go asking for that. CISPA has been pushed by spying companies and a handful of tech companies for profit reasons. It is totally counter to the interests of most Americans.

Congress could also be focusing on a number of more important issues: what about increasing transparency and liquidity on financial markets? What about bringing people back to work? Any of these things would make better use of their time than these crazy spying bills which make us look like a joke on the world stage.

RT:Why should average Americans be bothered?

DS: Well, do you want strangers – people in local police departments, people at privately-run security companies – do you want them to be poring through years of your emails or every single Google search you made late at night? I will get no accountability for that. And then, if they turn it against you in the worst possible way, you won’t be able to get a lawyer and sue them because of the litigation immunity.