Ignoring a White House veto threat and concerns about the erosion of Americans’ privacy rights, the House passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act on Thursday, sending the controversial issue to the Senate.
“The White House believes the government ought to control the Internet” is how House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, spun things after the House vote.
CISPA would encourage companies and the federal government to share information collected on the Internet to help prevent electronic attacks from cybercriminals, foreign governments and terrorists.
The Obama administration threatened to veto the bill and suggested alternative legislation that would give the Department of Homeland Security primary authority over domestic cybersecurity. That bill is currently stalled in the Senate.
Widespread concern for the House bill’s impingement on privacy prompted representatives to draft an amendment that limits the government’s use of private information to five explicit purposes: “cybersecurity; investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes; protection of individuals from death or serious bodily harm; protection of minors from child pornography; and the protection of national security.” That amendment passed, 410 to 3.
Still, civil libertarians criticized the bill as another step toward the end of privacy for Americans on the Internet. Advocates of the bill responded that officials would simply encourage companies not to share personal information with the government or other parties. —ARK
The White House, along with a coalition of liberal and conservative groups and lawmakers, strongly opposed the measure, complaining that Americans’ privacy could be violated. They argued that companies could share an employee’s personal information with the government, data that could end up in the hands of officials from the National Security Agency or the defence department. They also challenged the bill’s liability waiver for private companies that disclose information, complaining it was too broad.
“Once in government hands, this information can be used for undefined ‘national security’ purposes unrelated to cybersecurity,” a coalition that included the American Civil Liberties Union and former conservative Republican representative Bob Barr, lawmakers said on Thursday.
Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)
House Speaker John Boehner.