One More Terrible Thing That Happened This Week: Let’s Talk C.I.S.P.A.

Welcome to the twenty-fourth installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy new tech column. Not everything we cover will be queer per se, but it will be about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology.

Header by Rory Midhani



It’s been a week, right? This week all I could think of was THE WORLD IS ON FIRE, EVERYBODY BAIL! WHEN IS RIESE GONNA START THAT COMMUNE ALREADY?! The Onion pretty much summed up all my feelings about it: It’s been a hell of a week.

The thing about it being a hell of a week, though, is that while we’re focusing on terrible scary important things, we might turn our attention away from the less immediate, less physically dangerous things that are still potentially important and still potentially quite scary. And I feel like C.I.S.P.A. might be one of those things.

C.I.S.P.A. stands for Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. And basically what it does is allow companies that provide you with internet service and social media and email and anything else you can think of internet-wise to share your information with other corporations and with the government. Supporters of the bill say this is to prevent cyber-threats from progressing and is considered a way to ward hackers off in real time, as they’re attacking. And on Thursday the bill passed in the US House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 287-127 with 18 abstentions.

President Obama has threatened to veto this bill if it passes the Senate in its current form.


Administration Policy CISPA by Alex Fitzpatrick

Because as it stands, the bill doesn’t require private business to strip data of personal identification data before sharing it with the government. This information can be shared without a warrant. Broad and unspecific immunities are granted to participating companies, so they don’t get in trouble for the information they share – customers cannot sue them for violating their privacy. And you will not be notified that your information has been shared. Or at least, you don’t have to be – like, maybe they could notify you? If they wanted? Basically this compromises the internet security of millions of internet users.


There are just too many gaping holes in this bill for me to be comfortable with it – too many unanswered questions. But it asks that age old question: which is more important? Freedom or security? And where is the line between the two that we can comfortably walk without compromising our priorities as a democracy? Lawmakers are citing the Boston Marathon Bombings as a brilliant reason to have passed the bill, which I kinda can’t figure out, because there doesn’t really seem to be much a cyber element to the crime. They’re using it as a metaphor – we need to protect ourselves from “cyber bombs” – but the remark makes so little sense that I can only assume Republican Representative Mike McCaul of Texas was capitalizing on the emotional fall-out of this terrible tragedy.

Basically I’m throwing it out there to you guys because I think Autostraddle readers are the smartest people on the planet– what do you think of C.I.S.P.A.? Does it make you squirm like it makes me squirm? If so, it’s a good idea to start contacting your senators, because the Senate is the next place we’ll see this bill. If it passes there, President Obama will have the opportunity to veto it (as stated above, he’s already threatened to do so), but we never know if that will happen until it happens, because politics. It’d be pretty unlikely for C.I.S.P.A to recover after a presidential veto because the House and the Senate need a 2/3 majority to overturn a veto.

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. I think post-marathon bombings we have to be prepared for everyone, everywhere, to use the tragedy as an argument for whatever it is they’re pushing for. Something like this plays with everyone’s emotions, making it a useful tool for convincing/arguing. Even if it doesn’t make much sense when you really think about it.

    On another note, I adore the banner for this column. Robots and rainbows = everything I want in the world ever

  2. I really don’t like the phrase, but from the sounds of it, this bill needs to die in a fire.

  3. One thing I wonder about this is : how would this affect the privacy of people outside of the US? I get that this is an American law, but there are no frontiers on the Internet and the majority of the big corporations that have millions and millions of users worldwide are based in the US – Facebook, Google, Paypal…
    Would those corporations be allowed to share private data regarding the non-American citizens who use their services to the US government or other American corporations? That would effectively allow the US government to spy on foreign citizens and organizations.

    And if this is really about security and anti-terrorism, what is it with allowing corporations to share data not just with the government but OTHER private corporations as well?? Smells like bullshit to me.

    • Really good question. I was wondering that as well…and I was wondering just how well this would go over with some of the countries who aren’t as internet-loving as the US. Eek.

  4. Yep, this thing really makes me squirm too. The US has after all been very vocal about this kind of law being oppressive and an abuse of citizens’ digital freedoms in other countries, yet in the US the same thing will protect freedom? Huh?

    • Because obviously the US government can be trusted to only do good things with our information, unlike all of those other governments. I mean, they’re just trying to protect us from threats like Wikileaks hacking the nation’s power grid.

  5. Obviously I think this bill is horrible and a complete violation of our rights. But at the same time, it’s not really shocking or surprising because I thought this was already happening?

  6. It reminds me of the S.O.P.A.-bill that turned up last year. Obviously, as a non-American, my primary concern is how this is going to affect other countries. People do not use a part of the internet that belongs to their country, it doesn’t work like that. The internet is a separate country, in some ways, and with a lot fewer frontiers. Would it be applicable for servers based in the U.S. even if all the site traffic is from other countries? Apart from that, it’s worrying that a government would have the possibility to spy on their own citizens, let alone foreigners. I’m glad Obama said he’d veto it.

    Incidentally, one of the reasons I can always remember the name S.O.P.A. is because “sopa” means “trash” in my native Swedish. Ironically true :D

  7. It absolutely makes me squirm, and I have absolutely been contacting senators. It’s awful, yet has been getting much less attention than SOPA/PIPA did. I understand, especially with the events of this last week, why there hasn’t been as much fervor this time around. But there needs to be.

  8. well, there’s all the proof we need that indeed we stopped being a representative democracy years ago. as with the “protect monsanto at all costs” bill that obama had no problem approving, private industry is writing most legislation now. we’re fucked. for once, i’m hoping for a god damned filibuster to end all filibusters should this thing have a shot in the senate.

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