Is Microsoft Backing Away From the Controversial Cybersecurity Law, CISPA?

One of the most troubling aspects of the controversial cybersecurity law known as CISPA (that was approved by the House 248-168 on April 26th, 2012 and is currently working its way through Congress) is a section that reads: "notwithstanding any other provision of law" companies may share information with Homeland Security, the IRS, the NSA, or other agencies.

Why is this particular clause creating so much concern among free speech and privacy advocates?

Because, by allowing the sharing of private data "notwithstanding" prior law, the new law obliterates the privacy protections that have been painstakingly built into all prior federal and state laws, including ones dealing with wiretaps, educational records, medical privacy, etc.

Here's how Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, put it during the floor debate prior to the House vote in favor of CISPA on April 26th, 2012: CISPA would "waive every single privacy law ever enacted in the name of cybersecurity... Allowing the military and NSA to spy on Americans on American soil goes against every principle this country was founded on."

The list of corporate supporters of CISPA includes several of the biggest backers of SOPA and PIPA (the proposed "anti-piracy" laws that were defeated after worldwide protests early in 2012).

Prior to the April 26th, 2012 House vote, Microsoft was seen as a strong supporter of CISPA.

Then, in the immediate aftermath of the House vote in favor of CISPA, Microsoft issued an April 27th, 2012 statement saying that any new law must allow Microsoft "to honor the privacy and security promises we make to our customers."

This April 27th, 2012 Microsoft statement can be seen as a concession to privacy advocates - acknowledging that there are indeed risks to privacy in the version of CISPA that passed the House.

It's too soon for privacy advocates to pop the champagne, but it appears that Microsoft's position might be that - after initially supporting CISPA - Micosoft may now be worried that the House version of the bill lacks nuance - and that revisions should be made in consultation with the Senate to "ensure the final legislation helps to tackle the real threat of cybercrime while protecting consumer privacy."

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