The fight for internet freedom, privacy and net neutrality has been a rough one. Over the past couple of years we have watched as a parade of laws have trotted past us. SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, and more have all shown us one certain thing; the powers that be have little to no regard for individual freedoms, free speech or the impact of restrictive laws on innovation, technology and the economy as a whole. However there was an underlying trend to these laws that disturbed us and many other privacy and right groups out there. The trend was a general trammeling of the right to free speech when it comes to any online sources; some would even say any source that had an opposing view point. Even the right to have protected sources was slowly being removed if you were an independent blogger (citizen journalist) and this effort is now being expanded.
It looks like the US wants to export something new to the world, now we are not talking about a technology. We are talking about our draconian copyright laws. You remember those nasty laws that the entertainment industry and software companies keep extending and expanding. For years our government has tried to be the police for these groups with laws like SOPA, PIPA Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection act and more. Well they are trying to force other countries to adopt these same rules and using trade agreements to do it. They have already been stopped once with ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) when they tried to remove the rights of individual countries to establish their own laws and are at it again with the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Over the last few years we have been covering the way that many governments (and corporations) are scrambling to put limitations, controls and other items on the internet. Some of these laws are obvious in their scope like PIPA, SOPA and even CISPA. There is no doubt what these laws are truly intended to accomplish despite the many attempts to paint them as being to protect jobs and national security. However there are other laws that are not as clear and have been passed under the pretense of protecting intellectual property only to be used for other purposes. One of these is the laudable sounding Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Remember the news we brought you about the FBI and other law enforcement agencies wanting more power to dig into your electronic communication? Well we have been forwarded an interesting follow on article today that looks like an opening shot in the campaign to get laws passed to extend these powers. The article was published on cnet and raises concerns about what our government is willing to do to get their way and require ISPs to put in real-time monitoring hardware and systems. These systems could potentially allow for broad harvesting of electronic communication without the need for a warrant (if CISPA and other bills are passed as well).
When I was a little kid I used to watch the cop and spy shows on TV. They were always full of exciting exploits where the good guys always triumphed over the bad buys without ever impugning on their morals. As I grew older the shows started turning more and more dark. The good guy still won, but they were more in the mold of anti-heroes than the white hats I watched a few years ago. The idea of doing morally questionable things in the name of good became more and more popular. Even in books this theme was growing, two one of my favorite fictional characters were very much unethical (yet in some ways moral), one was a criminal, The Stainless Steel Rat, and the other was Elric of Melnibone’ who helped sack his own kingdom to get his Fiancé (there is more to the stories if you want to read them). Now TV and movies are full of this type of “hero” we see them in real life, people who break the law in the name of good. One of the biggest examples of this is the collective known as Anonymous.
An important step for privacy on the internet and actually people’s general right to privacy happened yesterday. Most of us have heard the rumblings of the CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) and also the Executive Order signed by the US president that allows law enforcement to simply ask for user information. These laws also remove the right to privacy and in some cases the right to anonymity from the public on the internet. What many might not know is that a limited form of these acts has been in effect for some time inside the infamous Patriot Act.
Over the past year or two we have watched as companies like Microsoft, Crytek, Ubisoft and others push their business model into the cloud. At the same time we have watched as the number of cyber-attacks and data breaches increase. These attacks have also increased in sophistication and in some cases have not been detected until after the breach has been made and data lost. Still companies try to make the claim that their services, out of all of the others, are secure. Simply put (as we have always said) there is no such thing as a secure service, operating system, network or anything else. If it is connected or even powered on it is in danger.
Well it looks like CISPA has been shot down in the US for now. This was thanks to a fairly big internet campaign to let people know that the vote was happening (it was voted on yesterday) and while most of the world was watching the antics of Samsung and Apple the Senate tried to vote the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act into law. But to be honest with you toward the end (and as we get closer to the elections) we had a feeling this one would be scrapped. It was too much for many voters who already feel their privacy is being abused. The Senators knew that passing this would be a quick ticket back home as the popular opinion was against them.
We have previously reported that the US entertainment industry is trying very hard to push their version of the “law” out to the rest of the world. They have, quite literally, spent billions of dollars lobbying and campaigning to get the laws made in their favor. Now the fact that these laws include exceptionally oppressive measures, remove due process and also make even the most mundane violations into major crimes does not concern them. All they want to do is make sure that they keep control of the content and the money it brings in.
In a world where corporate interests are slavishly followed to the detriment of society by elected officials one man stands above it all. Lamar Smith is that man, out for justice for the people that pay his campaign bills and he will stop at nothing… Ok so enough of the very cheesy intro here. Out point is that Lamar Smith is back and trying to find a way to implement SOPA any way he can. If you are surprised then you must have been living under a rock for a while.