The Obama Administration joined the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) debate yesterday when a senior State Department advisor told The Guardian that the White House opposed the controversial bill.
CISPA emerged in the wake of the equally controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) came out of the gate fast, condemning the bill and two others as overly vague and expressing their concern that it could open the door to corporate and government abuses.
“The Obama administration opposes CISPA,” said Alec Ross, the senior innovation advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “…There is absolutely a need for comprehensive cyber security legislation, [but] part of what has been communicated to congressional committees is that we want legislation to come with necessary protections for individuals.”
Ross would not comment to the Guardian on whether or not the president planned on vetoing the bill if it made its way to the Oval Office.
Opposition to CISPA has been building online, with sites like Reddit focusing attention on the bill’s shortcomings. Those online protests got taken to a new level on Tuesday with a letter sent to Congress from influential technology figures that was critical of the bill, and amid reports that the Obama Administration’s opposition.
Though there is broad consensus about the need for updated cyber security legislation, experts (and even some politicians) agree that in its current form, CISPA is too broad, and could be used to infringe upon user privacy and civil liberties. On Thursday, reports suggested that the House Intelligence Committee is heeding calls and making revisions to the bill in order to address some of the privacy concerns aired by experts, the Obama administration, and people who yell on the Internet.
“Our bill is designed to help protect American companies from advanced foreign cyber threats, like those posed by the Chinese government,” the bill’s most vocal sponsor, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said in a statement regarding the changes. “It has always been my desire to do that in manner that doesn’t sacrifice the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, and I am confident that we have achieved that goal.”
The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) released a statement today lauding the CISPA revisions, but claiming that the revisions fail to address two troubling issues. One, is that private companies are allowed to share data directly with the National Security Administration (NSA). The other gives the NSA and other agencies broad authority to further share such information for national security reasons.