WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate was poised Tuesday to pass a bill intended to improve cybersecurity by encouraging the sharing of threat information among companies and the U.S. government.
Senators were voting on amendments before a final vote expected later in the day on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act. The amendments target concerns over privacy and transparency that were raised by some senators and technology companies, such as Apple.
Bill co-sponsors, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., said the measure was needed to limit high-profile cyberattacks, such as the one on Sony Pictures last year.
“From the beginning we committed to make this bill voluntary, meaning that any company in America, if they, their systems are breached, could choose voluntarily to create the partnership with the federal government. Nobody’s mandated to do it,” Burr said.
To the companies that don’t like the bill, he added: “You might not like the legislation, but for goodness’ sakes, do not deprive every other business in America from having the opportunity to have this partnership.”
Companies would receive legal protections from antitrust and consumer privacy liabilities for participating in the voluntary program.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who opposed the bill, offered an amendment addressing privacy concerns, but it failed to pass. It would have required companies to make “reasonable efforts” to remove unrelated personal information about their customers before providing the data to the government.
“You just can’t hand it over,” Wyden said. “You’ve got to take affirmative steps, reasonable, affirmative steps, before you share personal information.”
Senators also rejected an amendment Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., had offered that would have removed a provision to keep secret more information about materials that companies provide to the government. Leahy criticized the bill’s new exemption from the U.S. Freedom of Information Act as overly broad because it pre-empts state and local public information requests, and it was added without public debate.
The Sunshine in Government Initiative, a Washington organization that promotes open government policies, urged the Senate last week to support Leahy’s amendment. The AP is one of at least nine journalism groups that are members of the organization.
Cyberattacks have affected an increasing number of Americans who shop at Target, use Anthem medical insurance or saw doctors at medical centers at the University of California, Los Angeles.
More than 21 million Americans recently had their personal information stolen when the Office of Personnel Management was hacked in what that the U.S. believes was a Chinese espionage operation.
The U.S. and the technology industry already operate groups intended to improve sharing of information among the government and businesses, including the Homeland Security Department’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team.
The White House has said it supports the information-sharing bill. The House passed its version of the bill earlier this year with strong bipartisan support.
Filed Under: Industry regulations, Cybersecurity