Controversial privacy law passes in house

by Kevin Smead

Opposition to the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act heated up this past week after the legislation was rushed through the House of Representatives last Thursday.

According to popular technology blog Techdirt, the bill was originally scheduled to be voted on last Friday, but was moved forward to last Thursday afternoon. Though this move to quickly pass the highly debated legislation caused concern among much of the Internet community, many more called attention to the amendments included in the form of the bill that passed. The amendments essentially narrow down what the government can use data for, from any cybersecurity purpose to a specific list of five, including protection of children from exploitation.

While many are divided on the bill as a whole, there are those who clearly define their stance. Companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon and IBM all placed their official support behind the bill.

In a statement to magazine PC World, U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) cited the cyber threats coming from China and Russia as the motivation behind the bill.

“America will be a little safer and our economy better protected from foreign cyber predators with this legislation,” Rogers said.

Opposition includes Mozilla, creators of the Web browser Firefox.

“The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse” Mozilla said in a statement released yesterday

President Barack Obama, who also denounced the bill, said it “fails to provide authorities to ensure that the nation’s core critical infrastructure is protected while repealing important provisions of electronic surveillance law without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality and civil liberties safeguards.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also mounted a letter-writing campaign against the bill, explaining how the “broad legislation would give the government, including military spy agencies, unprecedented powers to snoop through people’s personal information — medical records, private emails, financial information — all without a warrant, proper oversight or limits.”

CISPA still must pass through the Senate, and eventually land on Obama’s desk, where he has threatened to veto the bill.