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All my life I’ve been hearing about Big Brother. For those unfamiliar with the term, coined by George Orwell in his 1949 masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Big Brother is the embodiment of a society under complete surveillance by its government. But it’s not fiction; in fact, our everyday activities are being monitored, today, right now, either by self-imposed technology or the ever-present Big Brother.
Traditionally, documenting our existence went like this: You’re born, and you get a medical and a birth record. These documents follow you throughout your life, filed and viewed by many. You must present these records in order to be admitted to a school, to be hired, or to be issued insurance. You get a Social Security number shortly after birth, which serves as your national identification. These nine digits connect you to every financial, criminal and insurance record that makes up who you are and what you’ve done. Beyond that, it’s all just paperwork.
And now comes CISPA, a proposed law in the United States that would allow for the sharing of internet traffic information between the U.S. government and certain technology and manufacturing companies. The stated aim of the bill—which has been revived after being defeated last year in part because of wide spread public protest– is to help the U.S. government investigate cyber threats and ensure the security of networks against cyber attacks.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation adamantly opposes CISPA and calls the proposed legislation “a poorly defined ‘cyber security’ exception to existing privacy law. CISPA offers broad immunities to companies who choose to share data with government agencies (including the private communications of users) in the name of cyber security. It also creates avenues for companies to share data with any federal agencies, including military intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA).”
I’m all for more security. But I’m not sure the CISPA bill has been well thought out. The implications for this bill and the potential for abuse are scary. Whether CISPA is passed or not, consumer privacy is eroding on a daily basis. Every time we connect to the internet, our IP address is revealed. An IP address is kind of like an online social security number which can be tracked or traced back to you. Masking the IP address with a virtual private network (VPN) is the first step toward locking down your online identity and personal information. The second is to call, write, or tweet your congress person urging them to vote “No” on this bill.
Robert Siciliano on Google+