20.4.12

this horse bears no gifts

There are and have been many calls for the retelling of Greek myths, they undermark the basis of so many stories throughout history; they formed a view of the world which seems to transpose itself across the ages. Today one can easily see Prometheus as 80's CEO who gave away all his stock (and thus unimaginable future power) of an early grassroots dot com which lead to his eventual bankruptcy, now he lies on a central park bench destroying his own liver on a daily basis with whichever cut-price gut-rot dulls the pain best. Sadly it seems the story of the Hydra has almost reversed itself, having banded together a brave collective of 10 million Heraclean souls to fend off the dual heads of SOPA and PIPA, they appear to have combined into the frighteningly ambiguous and demonstrable CISPA


If I seem a little more vitriolic than is usual I believe I have just cause and am soon (if not already) to be part of a growing part of the internet populace which will be spouting and spitting on the topic through every outlet given to them. Lamentably if CISPA passes any voice against such ideals is likely to be hastily upgraded to a prestigious private suite on the government watch list. 


Where SOPA and its colleague failed was in their blatant and frankly overt collusion with the movie and music industries. The assumption that the denizens of the internet were either too oblivious or stupid to see the underlying agenda of the RIAA and MPAA rippling between the lines of the respective bills was so insulting that many felt the need speak up simply to defend their IQ. The notion that these industries would be allowed to eat away at the foundations which formed the architecture of the modern web in order for them to continue attempts to sell us sub-par, demographically targeted excuses for art was visible as a cowards ploy from the outset.


This is the crux of the CISPA problem, whereas PIPA and its cohort were extraneous means to stifle perceived piracy, this time around the antagonist of the story is much broader and more open to loose interpretation. CISPA is one in a long list of bills posing as anti-terror devices (remember the horror of the TSA pat-downs?) handed down to us from the attacks on the world trade center on September the 11th 2001. Now, I have no call, right nor wish to belittle the occurrences of that day, but to live in a world which is still inheriting restraints from a terrorist attack, over a decade ago, whose key instigators, whether perceived or self-proclaimed are now dead seems a little unfair.
The bill itself will put powers of observation into government and private sector hands, enabling them to collect and share in-house anything they deem to be against the will of said government or private bodies. By example, if you were to encourage people to donate and/or contribute to any forum or affiliate of Wikileaks. (who are widely and publicly seen to be a great thorn in the American government's side) it will be perfectly acceptable for information from your social media, email and possibly even online banking facilities to be collected and shared between the various governmental and private bodies in order to ascertain if they denote a likely cyber-threat to the interests of those concerned.


This, in and of itself, would not seem such a bad idea if it's sticky fingers were clean of previous sneak attacks on the internet at large. Sadly the bitter taste of battle is still in the mouth of those who fought the asinine proposition of SOPA and PIPA. One of the few details defined in the new bill (of which the oft used term 'cybersecurity' is not a participant) is the mention to 'theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.' There is a obviously certain irony to stealing 'personally identifiable information' of internet users in order to secure that of the proposers of the bill, but the implicit use of the phrase 'intellectual property' is an obvious tell to this run at the senate steps; for all the anti-terrorist masking, supposedly one assumes to hide the brazen mistakes of past attempts, we can safely bet this is more of the same SOPA fuelled chaining of internet freedoms, only this time in a more sturdy package. It is admirable of the bills presenters to evolve their strategy after being shown up by the denouncement of their earlier slap-in-the-face for internet privacy, but nonetheless, still not even as cunning as the best Wile E. Coyote plan.


Another worry apparent in the bill is that should the situation arise whereby your information is deemed nefarious and untrustworthy enough to be gathered and shared, you will not be informed and there will be no judicial system by which permission for the data to be mined can be or needs to be granted. The real world equivalent would be that the police break down your door on a hunch, steal all your old love letters and bank statements while you are out and never issue a warrant or make it known that it was them. Leaving you completely mystified upon your return as to whether or not you have done anything wrong.


Food for thought also, is the list of private bodies who make up the 28 strong list of supporters, most notably being the once vocally opposition to SOPA and PIPA, Facebook. The only justification provided by vice president Joel Kaplan came as more of an attempted reassurance that;


"[CISPA]...would impose no new obligations on us to share data with anyone - and ensures that if we do share data about specific cyber threats, we are able to continue to safeguard
 our users' private information, just as we do today."




People using the internet and who are reading about this bill are not looking for assurances that when imposed it will not be misused. I'm sure that they would prefer that it weren't a possibility that their private data could be harvested.


It would seem that America, through the conduit of the internet, is bursting at the seams with paradoxical ideas. A country built on freedom of expression and  information is being quickly found to not visibly function on that principle; the more voices which can be heard more powerful the measures proposed to gag them become. Once again, as citizens of the UK, this does not directly affect us but many of the habits and procedures of the web are formed across the water and quickly dissipate especially where there is a provision to make or save money and/or face.


The mythical Hydra was finally vanquished by putting fire to the beheaded neck, thus preventing regrowth, with two weeks until CISPA is taken to the US senate floor I fear our hydra is much closer to 'Immortal jellyfish' (which bears the name hyrdazoa or hydra as its class) Capable of ostensibly advancing its growth cycle in both directions, either towards adulthood or polyp; 13 million raised voices may once again prove enough to convince the 100 seats to overturn CISPA and it may regress but only vigilance will allow us to spot it again as it moves towards full maturity.

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