Sen. Leahy introduces privacy amendments to cybersecurity bill

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The Cybersecurity Act would increase protections for the nation's electrical grid, financial networks, transportation system and other critical infrastructure. Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have been leading the call for passage of their bill, S. 3414.

One of Leahy’s amendments would establish a single, nationwide standard to notify consumers about data breaches involving personal information. Another amendment would require companies that maintain electronic databases containing sensitive personal information implement data privacy and security programs to mitigate the risk of security breaches.

A group of Republicans lead by Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) introduced a competing bill, the Secure It Act, partially out of concern federal requirements on cybersecurity would be unduly burdensome to private industry. They hope to have a vote on their bill as a substitute amendment to the Cybersecurity Act.

Another amendment would allow social media users to share videos they have watched through online content providers such as Netflix. Facebook users may currently reveal songs or articles they read, but not videos. Netflix has pushed for the amendment, because the Video Privacy Protection Act bans them from sharing video-viewing information without written consent from consumers.

The amendment also would provide privacy protections for email and other electronic communications — including requiring that the government obtain a search warrant based on probable cause in order to obtain email content.

A Leahy amendment would also bolster tools for law enforcement to prevent and prosecute cyber crime by strengthening and clarifying the penalties for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The proposal would also create a new criminal offense for cyberattacks involving damage to a government computer.

Other Democrats have said they too would introduce privacy security amendments, but Senate leadership has not yet reached an agreement on which amendments will get votes.

Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he was open to having as many amendments as needed.

“There’s plenty of room for changes,” Reid said on the floor last Thursday. “Let’s have as many amendments as people feel appropriate.”

That same day the Senate approved a motion to end debate on the Cybersecurity Act on a 84-11 vote. Forty-seven amendments have been filed and many more are expected.