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Privacy groups protest CISPA bill

February 14, 2013 04:03 PM ET

Smocer downplayed the privacy concerns that have been raised over the bill and hinted that they stemmed from a lack of understanding of the information that companies are seeking to share with each other and the government.

"The reality is that the data being shared on threats are the technical details of malware, sources of malicious attacks and warnings of potential attacks (i.e., 'ones and zeros')," Smocer said.

"If we were comparing this to the world of physical crime, one could think of it as the sharing of ballistic data or modi operandi -- information that does not relate to an individual, but that is important to understand both the criminal activity and to stop future risk."

A "Civil Liberties Talking Points" memo on the House Intelligence Committee's website also sought to dispel what the committee claimed were myths related to the legislation.

Privacy advocates, civil rights groups and academics, however, see a much darker side to the bill. Many of them contend the legislation creates or at least enables wide-ranging government surveillance of Internet users.

Their main concern is that the bill's language would allow a wide range of information, including personal data, personal communications and social media interactions, to be collected and shared with government agencies such as the DHS and the National Security Agency under the pretext of cybersecurity.

CISPA also overrides existing privacy law and would grant broad immunities against lawsuits and liabilities to participating companies, EFF policy analyst Mark Jaycox wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

Importantly, there are few transparency provisions in the legislation, Jaycox wrote. Information collected by private companies and provided to the government would be exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests, he noted. There is also nothing in the bill that would require companies to inform users if their information is shared with the government, he said.

covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at Twitter @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed Vijayan RSS. His e-mail address is

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