Shameful: Tech Companies Fighting Against Necessary CFAA Reform And CISPA Fixes

from the bad-news dept

We've been talking a lot about the importance of CFAA reform lately, even highlighting how, under the CFAA, the founders of some of the most successful tech and software companies of our time could have been thrown in jail under the CFAA. For that reason, it's ridiculous and shameful that many of the largest software companies, via the powerful SIIA lobbying group, are fighting hard against CFAA reform. We've been hearing for a while that companies like Oracle and Adobe were particularly strongly against it, but the SIIA represents an awful lot of tech companies, many of whom otherwise seem to be in favor of CFAA reform. Certainly, in talking to engineers at many of these companies, they think the CFAA is ridiculous, turning ordinary everyday activity into a possible felony. But some of the execs at these companies see a weapon to be used against people who make off with digital information -- especially rogue employees (or ex-employees).

This is silly. The tech companies are refusing to fix a very dangerous and broad law, because of a very specific circumstance that can be dealt with via other existing laws. Also, it's going against basic common sense and the views of many of these companies' own engineers. When companies are so focused on protecting one weapon that they're willing to allow such bad laws to stay, those are companies who are showing that they're not focused on innovation but on litigation and protectionist views.

Similarly troubling is the news that TechNet, an organization representing a bunch of tech companies has sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee supporting the post-markup version of CISPA. This isn't a huge surprise. TechNet had already been listed as a supporter of CISPA, and the bills' sponsors in Congress had worked overtime (or, rather, had their staffs work overtime) seeking to appease the tech industry on the mistaken belief that the fight against SOPA was really lead by the tech industry, rather than an angry public. The public isn't quite as angry about CISPA, since the threats of CISPA aren't quite as immediately obvious to everyday people, but winning over the tech companies by giving them immunity should they violate their users' privacy is a bad long term strategy.

Yes, tech companies were a part of the coalition who fought against SOPA, but part of that was because those tech companies were focused on what was best for their users. Choosing to go against those same users when it comes to their own privacy is going to backfire eventually. Some people think that it was the tech companies who drove the fight against SOPA, when the reality was that it was the internet users, who pulled the tech companies into the fight. Not listening to their users would be a big mistake, as a vocal internet turning against these companies isn't a good sign for their future.

On that note, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian has kicked off a campaign looking to shame Google, Facebook and Twitter into coming out against CISPA. Hopefully, he'll do something similar around CFAA reform as well. Having tech companies come down on the wrong side of these two laws is a bad long term strategy for the tech industry.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 3:57am

    In before "Why are you pro-piracy" and "Google and Facebook just hate when copyright is enforced"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 4:05am

    Wow, you mean a big company only supports big causes just to enhance it's image? WOW!

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 4:07am

    Immunity - its a handy thing to get to put your mind at ease as you sell out.

     

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    DeadBolt (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 4:10am

    This will probably get me a lot of flak, but if North Korea does one thing, I hope they nuke the shit out of Congress.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 4:18am

      Re:

      Well, it needs torching as a hive of scum and villainy, for the most part. Just make sure that Wyden, Lofgren and possibly Issa are outside first...

       

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      Jay (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 6:23am

      Re:

      Congratulations. You've just fallen for the propaganda that ignores how the US has antagonized North Korea with war like sanctions to cause it to act ruthlessly in regards to South Korea.

      Maybe you should look at their playbook before thinking that Congress should nuke them.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 4:27am

    it's the same old story. if someone thinks something either wont affect them or will go past them, it's ignored or not contested. when it's found that it does affect and will hit them and it's too late to stop, then all the moaning and regrets start!

     

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    Ninja (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 4:44am

    Oracle, Adobe... All legacy players that forgot the tech and now know litigation. CFAA allows them to go after people who find security holes in their stuff instead of, you know, fixing.

    It's the old battle between the old and established industry that has run out of creativity and the new, innovative ones.

     

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      Anonymous Howard (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 4:56am

      Re:

      Yeah, calling Oracle a tech company is a little bit overstatement..
      All they do today is buy up innovating companies and milk them to the last drop.

       

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        Ninja (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 5:01am

        Re: Re:

        EA also comes to mind but I think it's pretty much any legacy player out there. Google will probably reach that stage at some point, there are signs already.

         

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      velox (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 8:27am

      Adobe wants guaranteed access to your private data

      Adobe's subsidiary and suspected NSA contractor Omniture is the #1 merchant of private data taken from your computer without your permission or knowledge. (Yes, I know Google Analytics is right up there doing the same thing). Adobe/Omniture wants to ensure there is a legal framework for them to continue doing this without your approval, and certainly without any ability for you to block or otherwise interfere.

      And in case you might have wondered why the NSA picked Utah as the site for their new multi-billion dollar surveillance data facility, it is not a coincidence that Omniture's new Omniture's new headquarters is being built just "across the freeway"

       

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        velox (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 9:03am

        Re: Adobe wants guaranteed access to your private data

        uff... doubling typo.

         

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        Ninja (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 9:51am

        Re: Adobe wants guaranteed access to your private data

        Nice piece of info eh? I always thought shell companies, subsidiaries and the likes is just a convenient means big companies use to keep them dissociated from shady business they engage... And unfortunately the average Joe eats this shit.

         

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    out_of_the_blue, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 5:18am

    Oh, this will work: "shame Google, Facebook and Twitter..."

    "...into coming out against CISPA." -- Just my wearied reaction to idealistic kid "Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian" or anyone who believes that corporations aren't amoral monsters, that they've any shame, particularly since those 3 giant soulless corporations will with this "reform" receive (more) gov't money for spying on the public.

    SO, Mike, have you YET noticed that your precious Google only pursues money behind its "good guy" public relations facade?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 5:37am

    They might oppose CFAA reform because the 'reform' would make things even worse then before at the moment, and they doubt they can salvage it into something better at this time.

     

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    The Real Michael, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 5:41am

    This is why I stopped using Google awhile ago and never used Facebook (nor Twitter for that matter).

    The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 7:00am

    Maybe as a form of protest, you should stop taking Google's money.

     

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    Beta (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 7:20am

    basic economics, again

    "[E]ngineers at many of these companies... think the CFAA is ridiculous, turning ordinary everyday activity into a possible felony. But some of the execs at these companies see a weapon to be used against people who make off with digital information..."

    This shortsightedness supports the theory that the only real talent executives have is the ability to get themselves promoted.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 7:24am

    Did that guy seriously think he was going to get Larry Page on the phone for a chat and did he really think he was making a point by trying?

     

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    MikeC (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 7:42am

    There is a reason to oppose change! The devil you know..

    What people sometimes don't realize is that it's often much more effective to deal with a bad law than have it changed to something you don't know - taking the chance it will cause other circumstances even worse than present. In particular dealing with congress and unintended(so they say)results.

    Large firms have a major investment in navigating the status quo and as large entrenched firms, many see it as better to know the lay of the land than trying to find a better landscape. Sad but true ... like ISO9001(x) or whatever, I don't care if you it make it not perfect, just make it the same every single time so we can adjust to it. That is the tack taken by many large firms.

     

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      TaCktiX, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 9:54am

      Re: There is a reason to oppose change! The devil you know..

      So why are the same companies that are opposing CFAA reform supporting CISPA which by design will change the existing landscape in regards to personal data in the name of "security"?

       

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    slick8086, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 10:15am

    This is the more of same thing.

    People who have wrested power/control (executives/management/publishers) want to keep it out of the hands of the people who produce (engineers/creators).

    The CFAA clearly favors bureaucracy over industry, so it is obvious that the bureaucrats favor it and the industrious don't.

     

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    NoahVail (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 2:12pm

    Expansion dead but CFAA Maximalist Juggernaut is born

    House subcommittee shelves recent CFAA expansion bill
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/12/cfaa-internet-activists_n_3068978.html

    Meanwhile: CFAA forces join up to form monster org representing Billions in pro-CISPA, max-CFAA interests.
    ABM, the association of business information and media companies, and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) announced today that they plan to merge in order to form the comprehensive, global business information and media industry association.

    http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/abm-and-siia-announce-plan-to-join-forces-1777 484.htm

    SIAA member list http://www.siia.net/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=43

    ABA member list http://www.abmassociation.com/assnfe/companydirectory.asp?MODE=FINDRESULTS

    SIAA acts on fear that Aaron Swartz suicide could lead to CFAA reform
    http://www.siia.net/blog/index.php/2013/01/page/5/
    The CFAA was the subject of several proposed legislative reforms in 2012, and SIIA has been engaged, seeking to preserve the ability of SIIA members to use the CFAA to deter and prevent unauthorized access to or misuse of databases, subscription services and cloud services.

    ABA loves CFAA's criminal/civil penalties, longs to lovingly protect them
    http://www.abmassociation.com/News/2748/Inside-the-Beltway-%3A-April-2012
    The CFAA carries civil as well as criminal provisions, and it has long been considered an effective tool for protecting business databases.
    (sadly) Lobbyists for employees have sought to narrow the CFAA to prevent its use against employees.
    But their proposed narrowing of the statute could also diminish its usefulness in protecting private databases, and ABM has joined other database companies in opposing the amendment.

    I'm sure the best is yet to come and we'll be hearing from our new Global Business Information and Media Industry Association overlords soon enough.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 7:13pm

    The bill to expand the CFAA, while it would not outlaw VPNs or proxies, per se, could outlaw on common use of VPNS and proxies, the bypassing of geoblocking, with that bills expansion of "exceeding authorized access".

    Of course, that would depend on whethe the VPN itself kept any logs.

     

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