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Lawmakers to reintroduce controversial information-sharing bill

Privacy advocates say CISPA would allow private companies to share personal information with few restrictions
  • (IDG News Service)
  • 11 February, 2013 19:11

Two U.S. lawmakers plan to reintroduce a controversial cybersecurity bill that allows private companies to share customers' personal information related to a wide range of cyberthreats with government agencies.

Representatives Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, and C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, are scheduled to reintroduce the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) on Wednesday, they said in a press release. The new version of CISPA will be identical to the one that passed the U.S. House of Representatives despite objections from several privacy groups.

The bill is needed because of a lack of communication about cyberthreats between private U.S. companies and government agencies, the bill's sponsors said.

Privacy advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology, opposed the bill during the last session of Congress. The bill would allow private companies to share customer information with the government with few privacy safeguards, the groups have said.

President Barack Obama's administration also opposed the bill. The bill would allow broad sharing of cyberthreat information between private companies and government agencies "without establishing requirements for both industry and the government to minimize and protect personally identifiable information," the White House Office of Management and Budget said last April.

The new version of CISPA will be "the same bill that allows companies to turn over your sensitive internet records directly to the [National Security Agency] and the Department of Defense without requiring them to make even a reasonable effort to protect your privacy," Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the ACLU's Washington, D.C., office, wrote in a blog post.

Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Ruppersberger, the committee's ranking Democrat, defended the bill. It would allow the U.S. government to more easily share classified cyberthreat information with private companies, and it would allow private companies to share anonymous cyberthreat information with each other, they said in the press release.

Several tech vendors and trade groups, including the Information Technology Industry Council and the Software and Information Industry Association, voiced support for CISPA last year.

CISPA includes several protections for privacy and civil liberties, its sponsors said. The bill limits the information sharing to cyberthreat information, it restricts the government's use and retention of the data shared, and it allows people to sue the government for privacy violations, they said.

The bill would also sunset in five years, forcing Congress to decide whether its provisions should be extended, they said.

Cyberattacks are "clearly not a theoretical threat -- the recent spike in advanced cyberattacks against the banks and newspapers makes that crystal clear," Rogers said in a statement. "American businesses are under siege. We need to provide American companies the information they need to better protect their networks from these dangerous cyber threats."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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More about: Bill, IDG, National Security Agency, Office of Management and Budget, Software and Information Industry Association, Technology
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Tags: Information Technology Industry Council, regulation, Center for Democracy and Technology, Barack Obama, government, Mike Rogers, Software and Information Industry Association, U.S. White House Office of Management and Budget, American Civil Liberties Union, Michelle Richardson, C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, security, U.S. House of Representatives
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