House Passes CISPA Cybersecurity Bill — Again
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
CREDIT: Diliff/Creative Commons
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) hasn't generated the same kind of outrage as last year's hot-button tech bills, SOPA and PIPA. Perhaps that's why it passed the United States House of Representatives so easily in the last Congress.
The House passed the bill again today (April 18), even though President Obama has once again made it clear that he will veto CISPA if it crosses his desk.
CISPA, also known as House Resolution 624, is a 27-page bill that outlines a plan to allow private businesses to share information with U.S. government organizations. Specifically, private organizations ("certified entities" or "a person with an appropriate security clearance to receive such cyber threat intelligence") could share information about Internet threats with American intelligence organizations (including the CIA, the NSA, military intelligence bodies and more).
The bill goes on to describe circumstances under which the director of national intelligence could requisition this information (more or less whenever he deems it necessary), and states that private organizations cannot share this information with unauthorized personnel or benefit unfairly from it.
As CISPA's critics have been quick to point out, the language is very broad and could easily let personal, sensitive information fall into the wrong hands. There's also a fair chance that the bill is unconstitutional, since the Fourth Amendment prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures."
Nevertheless, the House approved the bill by a vote of 288-127. A number of House Democrats attempted to thwart CISPA in its current form yesterday, hoping to declaw it by adding additional amendments. The motion failed, 227-192.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation had nothing nice to say about the outcome. "Breaking: The U.S. House just passed #CISPA, undermining the privacy of millions of Internet users. Now we take this fight to the Senate," it tweeted. The issue received a fair amount of bipartisan support in the House, so there's no telling which way it might go in the Senate. [See also: Top 5 Tech Initiatives for Obama's Second Term]
The White House still opposes the bill wholeheartedly. "The Administration is concerned about the broad scope of liability limitations in [CISPA]," said a White House statement. "The law should not immunize a failure to take reasonable measures, such as the sharing of information, to prevent harm when and if the entity knows that such inaction will cause damage or otherwise injure or endanger other entities or individuals." The statement goes on to remind Congress to "incorporate privacy and civil liberties safeguards into all aspects of cybersecurity."
The previous Senate never took up the earlier CISPA bill, but if this one succeeds, Obama will likely make good on his promise to veto it. Congress could theoretically muster two-thirds majorities in both houses, supersede the president's wishes and make CISPA into law, but will more likely revise some of its strictures before resubmitting it for another round of voting.