Anyone who actually watched the Congressional Cyber-Security hearings that have taken place over the past few months won’t be surprised that the House just passed a measure designed to keep us all more secure online. A similar measure has yet to be considered in the Senate.
The House Bill, also known as the Cyber Intelligence and Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was opposed by the White House and civil liberties organizations such as the ACLU. Their opposition stems from privacy concerns about provisions that allow the sharing of information between Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) and the Federal government.
However, what was made abundantly clear by all the experts who testified before the House recently, is that a free information exchange between the government and ISP’s is absolutely vital to their efforts to block cyber-attacks from governments such as China, Russia, and Iran, as well as from criminals worldwide.
So, by voting 248 to 168 to pass the bill , The House was acting totally in accord with the testimony and advice they got from experts in the field of cyber-security. One thing that came up during those hearings though, was that personally identifiable information about individual internet users was not the type of data they wanted to share. When Internet Service Providers such as Comcast and AT&T were testifying; they indicated that there were ways to share information with the government which would enhance their ability to secure their networks; but that could also protect their users’ private information.
That’s what the White House and civil libertarians such as the ACLU want, and why the President threatened to veto the bill as it now stands. There are provisions in the bill that limit the ways government agencies can use information to things such as criminal prosecutions and national security. But, they don’t require ISP’s to strip out personal information before they send it to the government.
There is a Senate cyber-security bill though, and it has apparently been written with more privacy protections and in a way that is more in alignment with the President’s point of view. However, that bill hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing yet.
When it is; you can be sure there will be lots of lobbying from CISPA opponents such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is vowing to take their fight for civil liberties protection to the Senate.
To actually see and hear the testimony that helped House members make their decision to pass CISPA, follow these links to C-SPAN videos: