Cybersecurity bill fails in U.S. Senate

Some senators had raised concerns about government authority and privacy issues in the legislation

The U.S. Senate has voted against moving forward on a cybersecurity bill that supporters have called critical for national security.

The Senate late Wednesday voted 51-47 to end debate and move toward a final vote on the Cybersecurity Act but 60 votes were needed to move the bill forward. The Senate also failed to move forward on the bill during an August vote.

Tech trade group BSA called on lawmakers to give a high priority to cybersecurity legislation in 2013.

"It is disappointing that senators haven't yet been able to reach an agreement on cybersecurity legislation -- but stalemate doesn't make the issue go away," BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman said in a statement. "There is no getting around the fact that we need to bolster America's cybersecurity capabilities. We urge both parties to put this issue at the top of the agenda in the next Congress."

Some Republicans have raised questions about the bill, which would allow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to set cybersecurity standards, developed with the help of private companies, for operators of critical infrastructure. Critics have said the bill gives DHS too much power.

Other senators have raised privacy concerns about the bill, saying it would allow Internet service providers and other Web businesses to spy on customers to share information with the government without the need for a warrant.

The bill would create a new intra-agency council to work with private companies to develop cybersecurity standards that businesses could voluntarily adopt. The bill would offer incentives to companies that volunteer for cybersecurity programs, including protection from lawsuits related to cyberincidents and increased help and information on cybersecurity issues from U.S. agencies.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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