Last night, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden joined Fight for the Future’s Q&A session on reddit to weigh in on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA,) the controversial "cybersecurity" bill that is expected to see a vote on the Senate floor this afternoon.
"CISA isn’t a cybersecurity bill," Snowden wrote in the reddit "IAmA" thread, "It’s not going to stop any attacks. It’s not going to make us any safer. It’s a surveillance bill. What it allows is for the companies you interact with every day – visibly, like Facebook, or invisibly, like AT&T – to indiscriminately share private records about your interactions and activities with the government."
The reddit Q&A also featured representatives from Access, EFF, and Demand Progress as well as Senator Ron Wyden, who has been one of the strongest Congressional opponents of CISA.
Snowden, who of course understands the inside of the United States’ surveillance programs better than most, went on to explain how CISA will enable new types of government spying:
In theory, this is supposed to allow the government to sort through what is in effect the entire private network space of civil society within the United States for "indicators of compromise,” or, more simply, red flags that indicate a hack has happened. The problem is that the NSA, FBI, and other organizations already do this on a higher level of the network under other authorities, such as Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. They don’t like that, though, because it means there are still parts of the internet and types of records that they aren’t (legally) allowed to add to the dragnet.
CISA changes that. CISA allows private companies to immediately share a perfect record of your private activities the instant you click a link, log in, make a purchase, and so on – and the government with reward for doing it by granting them a special form of legal immunity for their cooperation.
The former NSA contractor also took to twitter to encourage his 1.5 million followers to call their Senators to oppose the bill. Snowden’s comments come at the peak of a rising wave of opposition that has included dozens of civil society groups, security experts, and major tech companies including Apple, Twitter, Dropbox, Mozilla, and Wikipedia.
Fight for the Future and other groups have driven millions of faxes, hundreds of thousands of emails, and tens of thousands of phone calls in opposition of the bill. The hashtag #StopCISA has been used more than 11,000 times in the last week alone.
Snowden concluded his IAmA comments with a warning about the impact of CISA on Internet users’ trust in U.S. tech companies, echoing concerns from industry experts and privacy advocates:
This is a bill that will radically reshape the relationship between users and companies, because it undermines the core foundation of trust on the internet: that companies work for users rather than governments.
Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer said, "This vote will go down in history as the moment that lawmakers decided not only what sort of Internet our children and our children’s children will have, but what sort of world they will live in. Every Senator who votes for CISA will be voting for a world without freedom of expression, a world without true democracy, a world without basic human rights. And they will be voting for their own removal from office, because the Internet will not forget which side of history they stood on."
Fight for the Future is a grassroots advocacy group with more than 1.4 million members that fights to protect the Internet as a powerful platform for freedom of expression and social change. They’re best known for organizing the massive online protests against SOPA, for net neutrality, and against government surveillance. Learn more at https://www.fightforthefuture.org and https://www.twitter.com/fightfortheftr