In an interview with CNN, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian said he would refuse to buy Facebook stock because of the company’s appalling attitude to privacy and its support for the CISPA bill.
“I’m not planning on it…I understand the business value to what Facebook is doing. We’ve never seen a company like this before–ever. And it knows things about our private lives that no one else does. And one of the big issues that a lot of us in the tech community have had of late has been their support for bills like CISPA that make it really easy for companies like Facebook to hand over private data about us without any due process. So that’s why I’ll be holding off,” said Ohanian.
Reddit joins Mozilla as the only other major tech company to decry CISPA, with firms like Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Oracle, Symantec, AT&T and Verizon all backing the bill. Last week, Mozilla released a statement calling the legislation an “alarming” threat to privacy, adding, “The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse.”
CISPA has been identified by many as a greater threat to privacy than SOPA, which was opposed by a deluge of major tech firms after a viral online opposition campaign, but because CISPA has received less attention, corporate giants have found it easier to stay mute.
Not only would CISPA mandate ISPs to share Internet data of users with government “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” it also empowers the Department of Homeland Security to monitor the communications of the federal courts and Congress, and intercept tax returns sent to the IRS.
The bill “gives companies a free pass to monitor and collect communications and share that data with the government and other companies, so long as they do so for ‘cybersecurity purposes,’” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has noted. “Just invoking ‘cybersecurity threats’ is enough to grant companies immunity from nearly all civil and criminal liability, effectively creating an exemption from all existing law.”
“The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a “cybersecurity crime”. Basically it says the 4th Amendment does not apply online, at all. Moreover, the government could do whatever it wants with the data as long as it can claim that someone was in danger of bodily harm, or that children were somehow threatened—again, notwithstanding absolutely any other law that would normally limit the government’s power,” writes TechDirt’s Leigh Beadon.
Having passed the House, the bill heads for the Senate where it could be made even more draconian before being voted on.
Although the Obama administration has threatened to veto the bill, this is largely because the administration wants to see it grant even more power to the Department of Homeland Security. Given the White House’s stance on other privacy issues, only the supremely naive would think the administration is genuinely concerned about digital privacy.
Just like the NDAA, which Obama signed into law after indicating he would veto it, CISPA is heading for passage unless more prominent voices come out against it.
Watch the interview below: