If you haven't been paying attention to CISPA, or Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, it's time you started doing so. It's a bill that, according to many, is every bit as controversial as SOPA and PIPA were, and that was before a proposed amendment written by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) upped the ante by giving the Department of Homeland Security's Janet Napolitano a scary amount of authority to "intercept" online communications.
Here's the part you need to digest:
"In receiving information authorized to be shared with the Federal Government under this section, the Secretary of Homeland Security is authorized, notwithstanding any other provision of law, to acquire, intercept, retain, use, and disclose communications and other system traffic transiting to or from or stored on Federal systems and to deploy countermeasures with regard to such communications and system traffic for cybersecurity purposes..."
As CNet points out, this would give DHS authority to snoop all networks owned by the federal government or operated on its behalf, such as AT&T and Verizon. Networks operated by the FBI and even the White House are all fair game. So are your IRS tax returns.
In order to tap into such networks, DHS would have to deem that it's "reasonably necessary" to do so, which privacy advocates undoubtedly will find a bit too broad in scope. The same applies to pre-amended versions of CISPA -- it's just too broad and vague.
Nevertheless, CISPA's authors are confident the bill will pass when it's put up for a vote this Friday, according to Mashable.
"We’ve gone through most of the privacy concerns expressed by privacy and civil liberties communities and by technology companies like Facebook," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), according to Mashable. "They have been very good working with us on language to get the bill to a point that helps them protect users and protect their civil liberties."
You can read the amendment in its entirety here (PDF).