Activists and Internet users protesting the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act – a cybersecurity bill that passed the House of Representatives Thursday – have spun the battle as big business interests versus the privacy of individual citizens. If lobbying dollars are anything to go by, they're right: Pro-CISPA businesses and interests have spent 140 times more money on lobbying than anti-CISPA interests, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
From 2011 through the third quarter of 2012, backers of CISPA spent $605 million on lobbying; anti-CISPA groups spent just $4.3 million. While it's impossible to know how much of the lobbying was spent on any one issue (the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which supports CISPA, spent $162 million during this time on countless issues), those fighting the bill say the numbers are indicative of the uphill battle they are fighting.
"I am not surprised to see corporations spending significant amounts of money lobbying on CISPA," says Rainey Reitman, activism director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the most outspoken critics of the bill. "Keep in mind that CISPA has sweeping liability protections for companies, making it a sweetheart deal for companies. That's no coincidence."
Anti-CISPA organizations that have spent money lobbying during that period include the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Constitution Project.
Few companies have spoken out against CISPA, which would allow the government to share classified "cyber threat" information with companies in order to help them protect their network. But privacy advocates say that the bill also allows companies to share private information on citizens with the government.
According to OpenSecrets, 208 different organizations registered to lobby on last year's version of CISPA, with Verizon, AT&T, Google and Yahoo being the most active. Tech companies, many of which were against the Stop Online Piracy Act (a bill that would have blocked certain websites that contained copyrighted materials), haven't spoken with their wallets on CISPA. According to MapLight, tech companies spent some $5.7 million opposing SOPA; on CISPA, they spent just $17,000 (with most of that coming from Craigslist, Mozilla and Reddit employees).