(Capital (Annapolis, MD) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Patrick Roanhouse couldn't understand why the government wanted access to his personal information without a warrant.
The Severna Park information technology consultant is speaking out about the effects he says a new cyber security law will have. The bill would encourage Internet service companies and federal authorities to share information collected on the Internet, without the need for a warrant, to help prevent electronic attacks from cyber criminals, foreign governments and terrorists.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act on Thursday, and it now heads to the Senate for debate.
"CISPA affects the privacy rights of every person who uses the Internet," Roanhouse said.
Roanhouse has organized meetups, launched Web campaigns and talked with legislators. He uses the social news site Reddit to ask users to alk to their legislators.
The tactic worked last year when Roanhouse and others protested the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have allowed the government to prosecute Internet users who download illegal content.
Roanhouse sees CISPA as the government's latest attempt to gain access to private information. He believes the bill violates the Fourth Amendment's guarantees against unwarranted search and seizures.
U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Baltimore County, is the bill's co-author. He said the measure would allow the government to have better access to computer-coded information that could be terrorist-related.
"We're talking about code that looks like reams of zeroes and ones, not your tweets, emails and Facebook posts," he said.
Under the legislation, a two-way communication system would be set up. Companies could voluntarily turn over information they found suspicious, and federal authorities could request information from the companies.
"This bill is intended to combat advanced cyber hackers from stealing classified military information and sensitive trade secrets from American companies," Ruppersberger said.
Many of the 800 companies that support the bill employ people in Linthicum, Jessup, Millersville and other communities in Anne Arundel County. A number of them have contributed to Ruppersburger's re-election campaign, giving him nearly $100,000. To date, his campaign has raised just over $1.3 million, according to the political research website MapLight.
Defense contractor Northrup Grumman was the biggest contributor, with $24,950, while industrial conglomerate Textron donated $10,500, railroad corporation CSX gave $10,000 and cable giant Comcast gave $9,900 to Ruppersburger, according to online campaign finance reports.
The bill has other direct ties to Ruppersberger's 2nd Congressional District, which includes the National Security Agency headquarters and the U.S. Cyber Command at Fort George G. Meade. Information gathered from CISPA could be directed to computers and analysts at these agencies.
Roanhouse said companies support the bill because they see it as a chance to make money.
"CISPA doesn't directly say they can set up for sale items, which would circumvent the need for warrants. Companies can make deals with companies who act as neutral third parties, too," he said.
Stewart Baker, a former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, said federal officials might negotiate to receive the information.
"Payment is not specified in the legislation. In some circumstances, you might trade it and everyone gets value from it," he said.
Ruppersburger's opponent in November, state Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R- Baltimore, says she had heard many constituents express worries about CISPA.
"CISPA is really a broad bill and lacks restrictions on abuse. It's got an unlimited definition of what information can be shared with the government," she said.
Jacobs said that if elected she would work with legislators to ensure that personal information is kept private.
President Barack Obama has also come out against portions of the bill.
Supporters and opponents of CISPA both say their opponents are out of touch with society.
Baker, who favors the measure, said Americans aren't aware of the real threats of cyber warfare. Such legislation, he said, is needed to ensure the country remains safe.
Roanhouse, meanwhile, is encouraging opponents to call the White House and ask the president to veto the bill.
"Ruppersberger isn't a bad guy, I think he just drank the Kool- Aid and lost sight of what's important," Roanhouse said.
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