Twitter, Other Tech Juggernauts Choose Privacy Over New Cybersecurity Bill

Steve Ambrose | Contributor

The line in the sand has been drawn and everyone is now picking sides.

While the Senate began debate Oct. 20 on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), influential technology companies have staked out their opposition to the plan before the bill has been finalized. (RELATED: Hillary Ignored Mandatory Cyber-Security Training At State Department.)

CISA, which was introduced into the Senate Mar. 17 by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman [crscore]Richard Burr[/crscore], is a bill aimed at improving cybersecurity through the “enhanced sharing of information” between the private sector and the government. (RELATED: New Russian Hacker Exploit ‘Most Significant Cyber-Espionage Threat’ To US, NATO Partners.)

A number of privacy and open Internet advocates have expressed serious concerns about language in the bill. The advocates primarily fear CISA could lead to a backdoor to increased surveillance. (RELATED: Muslims Civil Rights Suit Against NYPD Will Continue.)

Twitter, the day before the debate started in the Senate, came out against the bill.

Twitter is only the latest company to oppose the bill. Reddit, Yelp, and Apple have also openly rejected CISA.

Other organizations have joined Twitter in rejecting the plan: the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital privacy organization; the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and Business Software Alliance (BSA), both internet trade associations.

Apple and Dropbox recently told the Washington Post that they were opposed to the bill.

“We don’t support the current CISA proposal,” the Apple statement read. “The trust of our customers means everything to us and we don’t believe security should come at the expense of their privacy.”

Amber Cottle, a Dropbox executive for global public policy and government affairs, told the Post that “it’s important for the public and private sector to share relevant data about emerging threats,” however, “that type of collaboration should not come at the expense of users’ privacy.”

CISA is not without its own private sector heavyweight advocates though.

According to the open internet organization Fight for the Future, CISA supporters include: Verizon, Comcast, HP, LinkedIn, and Intel.

Burr, in an effort to ease concerns, stated on the Senate floor during the debate that there was “not a soul in the world that has to participate. It creates a community watch program.”

In a press release from Oct. 20, Burr and Vice Chairman of the Intelligence Committee [crscore]Dianne Feinstein[/crscore] debunk what they believe are the misnomers and rumors surrounding the CISA debate.

Feinstein said the “bill is the product of years of work and includes input from all sides of this issue. It balances security, personal privacy and liability protection in a way that I believe can pass the Senate. I look forward to finally seeing this bill become law.”

The senators emphasized that sharing under CISA is a completely voluntary act. “No company,” the statement read, “is compelled to provide information to the government or any other company.”

The statement also listed other restrictions placed on CISA such as: not allowing federal monitoring of private networks; the information retained may only be used for cybersecurity purposes; and the government may not shut down a website or require that personal information be handed over.

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