In the digital age, the ease of instant global communication has become increasingly worrisome to many governments and agencies, few more so than in the US. Many governments have begun to monitor and track private communications and online activity, and a rain forest’s worth of paper has been sent through various legislative branches across the world purporting to protect the people. However, many critics feel their motives are far more sinister, or at the very least, leave citizens open to abuse. Here are the five worst laws against online privacy.
CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act)
The basic idea behind this bill is that the government and tech giants will share information freely, allowing the government to more effectively investigate cybercrime and shore up weak points in tech company servers. However, it has a dark side, not least because it allows the government to look into whatever private sector servers it sees fit, whenever it sees fit, and criminalizes corporations that refuse to cooperate. This bill, in two iterations, has yet to make it through Congress and the signatory process.
CFAA (Cyber Fraud and Abuse Act)
Created in 1986, the CFAA was intended to stop “black hat” hackers. However, CFAA’s penalties are so stringent that they have provoked outrage as being disproportionate. Because of this, a bipartisan effort in Congress has been launched to reform CFAA in the face of protests from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others, who say the language of CFAA is too vague to be Constitutional.
SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)
SOPA, like CISPA, has been through numerous rewrites in its turbulent history. As recently as December 15th, 2012, it was slated for revision and submission. However, a coalition of congresspersons refused to consider it until the problems of language, transparency in enforcement, and clarification of what exactly constituted online piracy were spelled out appropriately. For now, this is a piece of legislation that has yet to see daylight as law, but it remains the most recent, high profile example of how those in power seek to curtail basic freedom of expression.
FISA Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
FISA, passed in 1978, is the basis upon which most cyber-laws hinge today. This law allows surveillance of anyone within the US for up to one year without a warrant or any other legal requirement other than the fact that judicial approval was essential within 24 hours after the surveillance was initiated. This “infrastructure” law also formed the precedent for…
USA PATRIOT Act
Despite its All-American name, the PATRIOT Act is one of the most ominous pieces of legislation ever to come through Congress. It effectively permits warrant-free surveillance of anyone, anywhere, and at any time, with only very limited recourse and no need for the government to spend precious time explaining why it feels the need to monitor this citizen’s movements and communications. Nice for Uncle Sam, but not so great for the Average Joe.