New cyber-security bill could violate privacy rights - CBS 5 - KPHO

Cyber-security bill raises new privacy concerns

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation launched the 'Stop Cyber Spying' campaign in conjunction with a number of other privacy and civil rights organizations to protest the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. (Source: EFF) The Electronic Frontier Foundation launched the 'Stop Cyber Spying' campaign in conjunction with a number of other privacy and civil rights organizations to protest the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. (Source: EFF)

(RNN) - The House of Representatives is set to vote on a bipartisan cyber-security bill with broad support from companies and representatives next week, but the bill's vague language has a number of civil rights and privacy advocates up in arms.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) would open communication between the federal government and businesses by allowing them to share sensitive information on possible threats.

The bill has more than 100 co-sponsors in the House and support from a number of well known companies, including Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Verizon.

Christopher Padilla, vice president of governmental programs for IBM, said the bill "provides a solid framework and useful legal protections to permit the timely flow of actionable threat information in order for organizations to better protect themselves and customers."

However, civil rights organizations have criticized the bill for its broad terms, which could potentially allow companies to release personal, private information to the government without telling consumers. The information could be shared without any oversight from the courts and may be used only to detect and deter cyber threats or "in the interest of national security."

At least 22 organizations have launched a cyber-campaign against CISPA. Using the Twitter hashtags #CISPA and #CongressTMI, the campaign encourages voters to tweet at their representatives and send emails urging legislators to take a second look at the privacy ramifications of the bill.

"We need cyber-security legislation, not surveillance legislation," said Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

"CDT's main concerns with CISPA are that it has an almost unlimited description of the information that can be shared with the government; it allows for a large flow of private communications directly to the NSA [National Security Agency], an agency with little accountability; and it lacks meaningful use restrictions," CDT Senior Counsel Greg Nojeim said.

The CDT wants to make sure that information passed on to the government is used specifically to ensure cyber-security and not "unrelated national security purposes or criminal investigations," Nojeim said.

"The language of this bill is dangerously vague, so that personal online activity - from the mundane to the intimate - could be implicated," said Rainey Reitman, activism director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In a statement made to The Hill on Tuesday, the White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said "legislation that would sacrifice the privacy of our citizens in the name of security will not meet our nation's urgent needs."

She did not specifically name CISPA.

Facebook has also reacted to privacy concerns, highlighting the fact that the legislation would not require the sharing of any information. Facebook says the company has no intention of sharing personal information with the government.

"We've been engaging directly with key lawmakers as well as industry and consumer groups about potential changes to the bill to help address privacy concerns," said Joel Kaplan, vice president of Facebook's U.S. Public Policy, in a statement on Facebook.

The bill's sponsors have said they are working with privacy and civil rights groups to fix potential problems in the bill.

The bill had originally set off alarms for privacy groups with its inclusion of information that may violate "intellectual property rights." The term smacked of the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), which faced uproar from consumers and the internet community.

In January, a number of well known websites, including Wikipedia and Reddit, blacked out their pages in protest.

In December 2011, Rogers and Ruppersberger added an amendment to the bill which would prohibit the government from using cyber threat information unless "at least one significant purpose is cyber-security or national security."

A second amendment would require an annual report to Congress on the information shared with the government in the interest of making what data is collected more transparent.

The House will vote on CISPA on April 23.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act was introduced in the House of Representatives in November 2011.  More>>

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