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Data and Goliath: The War Against Government Surveillance Could Be Lost Forever

January 25, 2016

At the end of 2015, tyranny was codified into law with the ratification of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a name that pays lip service to the nefarious and deceptive purpose that the law really embodies. CISA is a surveillance law of the worst kind, bent on circumnavigating current legislation and protections to create a culture of fear and paranoia all in order to prevent people from standing for privacy.

CISA is the most recent incarnation of a Congressional pretext to disguise the burgeoning federal authority to access information without warrants under the guise of “information sharing”. Designed to allow organizations to “share information more easily in order to prevent cyber attacks”, CISA actually creates massive loopholes that allow companies to share any information with the government reportedly without legal consequence.

Corporations can and will be forced to hand over data circumnavigating current privacy laws under the guise of “cybersecurity”. This information is automatically shared with the National Security Agency (NSA), who has no restrictions on how the data is used.

CISA was valiantly fought against since the legislation was proposed in 2011, and it took an insidious form of law smuggling by the sponsors to get it approved in the House after the Senate ratified it in October. Last year, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a newly minted version of the omnibus bill, an agreement that must pass because it funds the federal government well into the next year. CISA was ensconced inside the legislation, ensuring that it was passed after being stripped of the weak privacy protections that initial drafts did contain.

The full text of the omnibus bill (2000 pages) was released on December 14th, with CISA buried on page 1728. The vote was set for four days later, giving representatives no time for a debate on a vital budget bill that also had provisions about Syrian refugees, oil exports and the Obamacare “Cadillac tax”.

Even worse, the final vote was carefully calculated to minimize public fallout as it was scheduled on the last Friday before Christmas to keep it out of the day’s news.

With a swift stroke of the pen by President Obama, thanks to some help by some unscrupulous Congressmen, the American people let tyranny win and stayed completely silent.

United States Representative Justin Amash later asserted after the vote that “many of my colleagues remain unaware” about a bill that he calls the “worst surveillance bill since the Patriot Act” because they may have “been misled into believing this bill is about cybersecurity.”

The provisions within CISA ensure that citizens will have no way of knowing if their data has been shared by corporations or federal agencies. The government now has the power to use the information it acquires to prosecute any type of criminal activity and does not have to scrub personal information unrelated to “cyber threats”. Legal immunity to a variety of actors is rampant through the legislation – only ensuring that data will continue to be stolen from millions of citizens, organisations and businesses and used against them.

The extrajudicial cyberwar against the personal and everyday information of millions continues to wage unchecked at will.

Fortunately, some steps can be taken to draw a line in the sand as CISA provisions only apply to American companies or programs hosted in the United States.

Using privacy services such as VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and programs that emphasise end to end encryption provide protections that stand strong via mathematical laws. Using internet browsers that do not collect data and practicing basic internet security are some of the simplest ways to begin to protect yourself. The above is not an all encompassing list of steps, rather it is a laundry list of how anyone can begin to regain their privacy while they are online.

The best way to fight against CISA and its draconian siblings is to create a culture of encryption among all citizens.

Overall, CISA only expands the government’s surveillance program and will be used to investigate, threaten and incarcerate more citizens as human rights and protections are pitted against security.

The warning signs are clear.
Tyranny continues to creep surreptitiously into the American consciousness.
The only thing that we will remember is the silence of those who could of made a change.

Don’t be on the wrong side of history.

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