CybersecurityHouse panel approves CISPA, angering privacy advocates

Published 12 April 2013

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee passed a cybersecurity measure by an overwhelming vote, a measure which privacy advocates dislike because, they argue, it does not protect the personal information of citizens.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee passed a cybersecurity measure by an overwhelming vote, a measure which  privacy advocates dislike because, they argue, it  does not protect the  personal information of citizens.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2013 (CISPA), which was sponsored by Representatives Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) and C.A. Ruppersberger (D-Maryland), passed by a vote of 18 to 2. The bill will now head to the House of Representatives for a vote which could occur as early as next week.

Before the vote on Wednesday, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a private meeting to discuss the legislation.

The Los Angeles Times reports that tech companies such as Intel, Oracle, and IBM have supported the bill. Privacy advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Fight for the Future strongly oppose the bill and have started a digital campaign to block it. 

The bill was designed to promote a better relationship between private companies  and the government in order to make it easier to share information on cyber threats and attacks. Opponentgs of the bill say the legislation goes too far by absolving companies of the legal consequences which would come with sharing sensitive personal information, while at the same time failing to make sure that private data is taken out.

Representatives Adam Schiff (D-California) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) were the two to vote against the bill. Both were concerned about some of the privacy issues which the majority on the panel said were not enough to block the bill.

Schiff told reporters after the hearing that he is confident that the issues he had with the bill can be fixed when the bill gets to the House.

“I think the legislation is worthwhile,” Schiff told reporters. “And it shouldn’t be that hard to require the steps that would protect people’s privacy while also preventing the massive theft of America’s work product that’s going on.”

The house tried to pass a bill similar to CISPA last year, but the bill stalled when President Barack Obama said he would veto the bill. Bill supporters say  enough changes have been made to the bill to get it passed this time around, but Schiff said he thinks the administration will still knock down the bill.

Before the vote occurred on Wednesday, Reddit co-founder Alexi Ohanian put an online video petition pleading with companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google to oppose the bill.