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CISPA-Like Bill Moving Quickly Through Texas Legislature

by: Ben Sherman

Thu May 16, 2013 at 01:00 PM CDT

UPDATE: The Senate will vote on its version of the bill, SB 1052, on Monday.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was a U.S. Congress bill that would, as the ACLU described it, "create a loophole in all existing privacy laws, allowing companies to share Internet users' data with the National Security Agency, part of the Department of Defense, and the biggest spy agency in the world - without any legal oversight." Fortunately, it was defeated a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, a similar bill passed the Texas House last week and is moving fast through the Senate. House Bill 2268 is designed to make sure Texas law enforcement can seize Texans' electronic information held on servers outside of Texas. The bill requires any Internet provider to people in Texas (that is - just about the entire Internet) to respond to search warrants for online communications in 4-30 days. That is an extremely narrow window which makes it difficult for  Internet providers to keep users' other information private.

Read more below the jump.

The electronic communications at risk include all online communication - emails, Facebook messages, tweets and messages on private list servers. Additionally, the bar is set extremely low for police officers to prove that they may find something important in a person's online communications. "An application made under this subsection must demonstrate probable cause for the issuance of the warrant and must be supported by the oath or affirmation of the authorized peace officer," the bill reads. That is almost not a standard at all.

With a bar so low and a reach so broad, such legislation will lead to widespread abuse and exposure of private information, and enable politically motivated "investigations". This is government overreach and Texans of all political ideologies should oppose it. If this bill becomes law, any investigation that can be brought into the Texas jurisdiction would have all the tools of CISPA, in which any private online activity can be easily seized by the government, at its disposal. That is terrible news not only for Texans but for all Americans.

The bill passed out of the House on May 7th with support from both parties; there were no "Nay" votes. HB 2268 had a public hearing yesterday in the Senate, and will likely be voted on soon by the Criminal Justice Committee and move to a full Senate vote. With the Legislative Session ending May 27th, this bill is moving alarmingly fast and almost without detection. Help change that.

Update: The bill passed out of the Criminal Justice Committee on Thursday and is now up for a full vote in the Senate. Please call our state senators today and let them know you oppose this bill.

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