Controversial Cybersecurity Bill Headed for House Floor

Privacy advocates try to paint Cispa as new SOPA

A cybersecurity bill written to defend the nation's businesses against cyberattacks is headed for a House vote this week over the protests of Internet privacy advocates and some Democrats. 

Although opponents of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or Cispa, would like to paint the bill as another SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), the attack lacks a lot of punch because of support the bill is drawing from tech and telecom companies like IBM, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. 

Cispa passed the House Intelligence Committee last week in an 18-2 vote. Although five privacy amendments were approved, a group of Democrats and privacy groups are still hoping to stop the bill from passing on the House floor in a repeat of last year's Cispa vote.

"Cispa has major shortcomings and would undermine the interests of citizens and their privacy," wrote Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rush Holt (D-N.J.) in a letter to House members. "The bill has improved from earlier versions, but even with the amendments adopted, Cispa unacceptably and unnecessarily compromises the privacy interests of Americans online."

The ACLU—which also wrote a letter to House members—and groups such as the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Internet Defense League, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other Internet activists have faulted the bill because it does not require that companies sharing information with the government or other private sector entities make anonymous personally identifiable information—it leaves that task to the government. It would also, the critics claim, allow private companies to share personal data with the National Security Agency.

Although the White House has been pushing for cybersecurity legislation, the groups are hoping that President Obama will threaten to veto the bill if it gets far enough, reported Politico. In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Obama's executive office said they would recommend the President veto the bill unless there are "additional improvements." 

Sponsors of the bill, House Intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.) are working hard to line up the votes for a Wednesday or Thursday vote. The committee put out a fact sheet in advance detailing 19 improvements to last year's Cispa.

Even if the bill does manage to pass the House, there is still the Senate, where the bill is likely to face an uphill climb.