CISPA passes House despite privacy concerns

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The House passed the controversial Cyber Sharing and Intelligence Protection Act (CISPA) Thursday by a 288 to 127 vote, ignoring the alarms of civil liberties groups as it sent it on to the Senate for consideration.

The bill — sponsored by House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger — is intended to allow for private companies to share cyberthreat information with the federal government.

Supporters have argued that the bill allows for private sector information to be shared with the federal government on a voluntary basis.

Rogers applauded the passage of the bill and his colleagues for their ability “to look past the distortions and fear mongering about this bill, and see it for what it really is — a very narrow and focused authority to share cybersecurity threat information to keep America safe.”

While national security professionals, legislators and even President Obama have demanded comprehensive cybersecurity legislation, their efforts have been met by substantial resistance from privacy activists and civil liberties groups that argue that legislative language so far has been too broad.

Groups from both the right and the left — including the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, TechFreedom and Competitive Enterprise Institute — have argued that concessions made by CISPA’s supporters have not been enough to alleviate concerns that the bill violates privacy rights or the freedom of contract.

Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash has been openly railing against the bill for not only threatening Fourth Amendment privacy rights, but also because the bill bans companies from guaranteeing to protect their customer’s privacy.

The House Rules Committee rejected an amendment sponsored by Amash during discussion of the bill on Tuesday that would protect the freedom of contract, which maintains that private citizens and corporations can enter into contracts without government restrictions.

Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies at Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that the goal of CIPSA is to give companies broad immunity.

“They think companies will share less because their contracts will bind them, but I think that’s absurd,” said Radia, speaking of CISPA’s sponsors.

The White House also issued a veto threat against the bill should it make it to President Obama’s desk, citing privacy concerns. The White House issued a similar veto threat against CISPA last year, but it ultimately died in the Senate.

The Senate is reportedly working on its own cybersecurity bill.

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