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Privacy advocates vow to continue CISPA fight

Attention turns to Senate after House passes bill despite threat of Obama veto

April 27, 2012 01:30 PM ET

Computerworld - The battle over the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is certain to heat up over the next few weeks, as the U.S. Senate begins debate on its versions of the controversial cybersecurity legislation.

The U.S. House Thursday passed its CISPA bill in the face of a White House veto threat.

Privacy advocates and civil rights groups, which bitterly opposed the bill passed by the House, promised today to intensify their protests as the debate moves on to the Senate.

The opponents of the legislation contend that, despite late changes to the bill, it would undermine fundamental privacy protections granted to Internet users under multiple statutes, including the Federal Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy.

Meanwhile, the scores of high technology companies and trade associations that support CISPA argue that the measure is a vital part of an effort to improve cybersecurity at a time when U.S. business, government and critical infrastructure networks face unprecedented hacker attacks.

The House version passed yesterday was introduced last November by Reps. Mike J. Rogers (R-Mich.) and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), by a vote of 248 to 168.

The bill aims to make it easier for Internet Service Provides and Internet companies to collect and share cyber threat information gleaned from their networks with federal agencies like the U.S National Security Agency.

Critics charge that the bill remains vaguely worded and would allow government agencies unprecedented access to business and private Internet communications.

The critics say the legislation would give ISPs and other Internet companies too much leeway to collect and share all kinds of user data with the government. And, they add, government agencies could use the data They say it will let federal agencies use the data for national security and other law enforcement purposes as well as to blunt cyber thieves.

The bill's backers did add late amendments to the original bill in an effort to address privacy concerns. For instance, the amendments add restrictions limiting the kind of data that can be collected and shared, and on how that data can be used.

In a statement after yesterday's vote, Rogers said the amended bill provides the federal government with the authority it needs to share cyber threat information with the private sector.

The bill "knocks down barriers to cyber threat information sharing" while ensuring privacy protections for Internet users, Rogers said. "We can't stand by and do nothing as U.S. companies are hemorrhaging from the cyber looting coming from nation states like China and Russia."

Rogers is chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee.

But groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the American Civil Liberties Union said that CISPA remains a dangerous threat to online privacy even with the amendments.



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