Controversial Cybersecurity Bill Advances in Senate

October 23, 2015, Written By John H. Oldshue

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate advanced a bill that will make it easier for corporations to share cyber attack information with other business or the government. To move ahead, the bill, which has strong support from members of both parties, needed at least 60 “yes” votes. 83 members approved advancing the bill, while only 14 opposed.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as many other industry and business groups say the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) will help businesses and the government prevent and investigate cyber attacks.

However, privacy advocates and some lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Republican Senator Rand Paul, opposed the bill.

“The bill would grant legal immunity to companies who, in sharing information, actually violate your privacy,” Paul said in the Senate.

Many big tech companies are also arguing that the bill will not protect users’ privacy and will do little to prevent cyber attacks.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a group that represents Facebook and Google, wrote an open letter in which they said, “CISA’s prescribed mechanism for sharing of cyber threat information does not sufficiently protect users’ privacy or appropriately limit the permissible uses of information shared with the government.  In addition, the bill authorizes entities to employ network defense measures that might cause collateral harm to the systems of innocent third parties.”

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

Both Democrats and Republicans supported an earlier version of CISA when it passed the House of Representatives in April.

The Senate is currently debating amendments, but the bill is expected to pass next week. Lawmakers will have to reconcile the Senate and House bills before it can be sent to President Obama, who could then sign it into law. Analysts expect the President will fully support CISA.

Potential changes include enhancing privacy protections to make it clear the NSA cannot get information from companies and reduce major liability exemptions for over-sharing.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of October 23, 2015. For up-to-date
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