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Reports: Privacy bill CISPA shut down in Senate

April 29, 2013 by NCC Staff


A controversial bill approved by the House that could let online companies share users’ personal information with the federal government won’t be considered for a Senate vote, according to reports on Monday.

computer serversThe Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was passed by House vote on April 18. The final vote in the House was 248-168, as 42 Democrats voted for the bill, while 28 Republicans voted against it.

The Huffington Post, among others, said on Monday that a committee staffer for Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Commerce Committee chair, told it that the Senate will not consider the bill for a vote.

Similar reports had surfaced late last week that the House version of CISPA wouldn’t see life on the Senate floor. U.S. News and World Report indicated that Rockefeller thought the bill lacked adequate privacy protections.

President Barack Obama had indicated he would veto CISPA if it came to his desk.

The Senate will reportedly work on its own cybersecurity bill, or bills, in the coming months. An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said last week that a Senate bill would force companies to block sensitive user data from government access in real time.

The Bloomberg News Service said as many as three Senate bills might be introduced. But they would need to be approved by the House after passage.

At the heart of CISPA is a Fourth Amendment issue.

The amendment reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

CISPA was designed to let the federal government work with private companies to fight hackers and cybercriminals in and outside of the United States. As part of the effort to detect cyber threats, private companies could voluntarily share with the government data in real time about Internet users. The personal data of users wouldn’t be screened from the data feed.

Another proposed part of CISPA would have designated the National Security Agency as the recipient of the data feed. But the House changed the bill at the last moment to allow the civilian-run Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department as gatekeepers of cybersecurity data.

Another CISPA criticism was that a warrant wasn't needed for the government to obtain that information. And companies that share your information won’t be held legally liable for sharing it, a practice that seemingly conflicts with privacy policies on existing websites.

Mike Rogers, a Republican representative from Michigan and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, has been leading the CISPA effort, along with Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland.

Rogers believes the measure is long needed. “People were stealing their identities, their accounts, their intellectual property, and subsequent to that, their jobs,” he recently said. “[Web users] began to question the value of getting on Internet and using [it] for commercial purposes. Their trust in the free and open Internet … was at risk.”

He has also stressed that participation in CISPA is voluntary for companies.

Unlike SOPA, the failed legislative attempt last year to halt online piracy, large tech companies were supporting the efforts to get CISPA passed.

At one time, Facebook and Microsoft had signed on to support CISPA, but now they are reportedly backing away. Google appears to be on the fence about the issue.

Major communications and utilities companies support CISPA, according to a list released by the House.

Last year, the House passed a similar CISPA bill, only to see it die in the Senate. Last August, a successful filibuster blocked CISPA from getting to the floor for a vote. Both libertarians and liberals had issues with the bill, and there were disagreements about which government agencies would be involved with CISPA.

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