Despite opposition from activist groups and even some of the largest companies in the tech industry, the US Senate is planning to push forward with the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA). Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, “We intend to pass the cyber security bill, hopefully by early next week.”
The House has already passed its version of the bill in April, with broad support from Democrats and Republicans. In the Senate as well, support comes from both parties, but opposition also comes from both parties. Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden are the main voices speaking out against it. Although the bill has been dormant for some time, the bill’s sponsors, Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Dianne Feinstein, are now renewing their efforts to get it passed, using the Ashley Madison hack and other recent hacks as proof that the bill is needed to protect private companies from cyberthreats.
CISA allows tech companies to share information about cyberattacks with each other and with the government without being held liable for privacy violations. The bill has long been criticized by activist groups like the EFF over privacy concerns, but more recently tech companies have started voicing their concerns as well. The Computer and Communications Industry Association, a group which represents major tech companies like Google and Facebook, has stated that it cannot support the bill as it is currently written. Twitter has also stated that it can’t support the bill in its current form.
Senator Wyden argued that tech companies are opposing the bill because they recognize that their users will lose faith in the companies to protect their privacy if the bill is passed. This concern should be taken seriously, there is already significant suspicion that tech companies are sharing data with the NSA without due process. A law which codifies information sharing between private companies and government agencies could be the final nail in the coffin, and might drive large numbers of users to abandon American tech companies en masse. In response to Wyden’s concerns Senator Burr claimed it was companies that won’t share information with the government that are putting users’ data at risk, by not protecting them sufficiently from cyberthreats.
Is CISA a threat to privacy and a tool of government mass surveillance? Leave your comments below.