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.