An explanation of CISPA and some links to petitions against it

Stop CISPA

Stop CISPA

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is a bill going through the US Congress right now.  The goal of CISPA is to allow the US government to more effectively police the internet. Legislators have been trying to get a bill of this nature signed into law for many years, and in fact did try to pass a previous version of this same bill in 2011.  It has been reintroduced by Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan’s 8th district.  North Korean hackers, Wikileaks, and even the Boston bombing have already been used to justify the reintroduction of this draconian bill.

The problem with this bill is that it would allow the U.S. government to collect personal information about online users from companies without having to issue a warrant.  In other words, they don’t need to have any proof or a valid reason to investigate you to get information about your browsing habits, what websites you visit, how often, what you say, and who you interact with.  There is even a provision in the bill would allow US companies to require employees to give them the passwords for their social networking accounts (for websites like Facebook) according to the Huffington Post. That is my understanding of the proposed law.

President Obama has vowed to veto the bill unless better privacy rights are not incorporated into the bill. I wonder what President Obama considers acceptable protection of privacy and if his requirements would actually be adequate. This sounds to me like posturing to satisfy his political base. I would wager that if congress makes some largely superficial changes to the bill to make it sound better our dear leader will sign it into law.

In my experience, a good indicator that something is wrong with a bill is that the ACLU opposes it. They have extensive information about the bill.  Wired has also written a good article about the issue.

Anonymous has asked the internet community to blackout their websites.  Almost 400 websites have joined in their protests; but sadly none of the big movers and shakers like Google, Wikipedia, Twitter, or Facebook have taken part (clearly WordPress.com hasn’t).

If you would like to protest this bill here is a petition to the whitehouse and a petition from the ACLU to strike down the bill.

My Centurylink Bill

It was the classic bait and switch.  I got my most recent internet bill in the mail and it said my cost had doubled to $62.04.  It has been 6 month since I started using this company.  I had the original advertisement in my internet bill folder so I read it out to the representative “Pure broadband 34.95 a month for 12 months*”.  The customer retention agent (I had already gotten to a second level representative due to my complaints to the original customer service representative) said that the program I signed up for was slightly cheaper each month by about 2 dollars but it only lasted 6 months.  I maintained that I asked for the 12 month plan and told him to go back into their voice recordings to prove I was wrong (because they all record your conversations – and most of them tell you).  Eventually he just gave in and put me on a different plan from the other two that costs about $53.76 a month – about 20 dollars more.  Then, like a cop who gives you a ticket for speeding but not a ticket for no seat-belt, he gave me a a $10 dollar a month retention discount, at which point, I had to say thank you as I just sat there and took it.

I also noticed a $9.99 charge on all my bills for the last 6 months under the heading “Related Monthly Charges.”  It was a charge called CenturyLink@Ease.  At first the man insisted I had signed up this $9.99 program.  I asked him what it was and he explained that it is a premium technical service package.  At this point I knew I was duped because I would never agree an additional cost like that.  I spent 5 years doing computer technical support and always insist on doing my own work.  After explaining that to him he relented and gave me 60 dollars credit for the 6 months of the plan I had been charged for, didn’t know I had, had never used, or signed up for.  The result of all this is that my bill is permanently higher but I get a month and a third or so of internet for free.

What is the moral of this story?  Companies do this kind of crap all the time, especially the largest ones (in my humble opinion), like “Centurylink,” which is the merger of Centurylink and Qwest.  Time to call the Better Business Bureau I guess.  How effective do you think that’s going to be?