Cyber bill could let feds spy on library users, advocate warns

Cyber bill could let feds spy on library users, advocate warns
© Getty

Librarians are warning that a cybersecurity bill about to hit the Senate floor could help the government spy on people using library computers. 

On Wednesday, the head of the country’s largest advocate for libraries urged senators to oppose the “privacy-hostile” bill known as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

ADVERTISEMENT
The measure is meant to boost the exchange of data about hackers between companies and the government.

"When librarians oppose a bill with ‘information sharing’ in its name you can be sure that the bill is decidedly more than advertised,” said Sari Feldman, president of the American Library Association (ALA).

CISA-related lobbying has ramped up in recent weeks as the measure inches closer to the Senate floor. It could come up as early as next week.

While most industry groups, a large bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and even the White House support the bill as a way to better understand and thwart hackers, privacy advocates have argued the measure would simply funnel more of people's private data to the government.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Senate confirms No. 2 spot at HHS, days after Price resigns Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax CEO faces outraged lawmakers | Dem presses voting machine makers on cyber defense | Yahoo says 3 billion accounts affected by 2013 breach MORE (D-Ore.) has been leading a small but growing group of privacy-minded senators who have spoken out against the bill.

Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Authorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient GOP feuds with outside group over analysis of tax framework MORE (R-Ky.) and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Clip shows Larry David and Bernie Sanders reacting after discovering they're related For now, Trump dossier creates more questions than answers MORE (I-Vt.), both presidential candidates, have joined Wyden's opposition. They point to what they say are inadequate provisions requiring companies and the government to strip out sensitive data prior to sharing it with intelligence agencies.

“As Sens. Wyden, Paul and Sanders have courageously pointed out in opposition to it, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act would dramatically over-share the personal information of tens of millions of Americans who depend upon library computer networks, and could function, as a practical matter, as a new warrantless surveillance tool,” Feldman said.

The ALA in April joined a large coalition of civil liberties groups, security specialists and academics in a letter to senators expressing similar concerns about CISA.

CISA’s proponents, including co-sponsors Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTrump: Why isn't Senate looking into 'Fake News Networks'? Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Special counsel looking into dossier as part of Russia probe: report MORE (R-N.C.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGun proposal picks up GOP support Gingrich: Banning rapid fire gun modification is ‘common sense’ House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance MORE (D-Calif.), have said these allegations are inaccurate.

The two lawmakers, who head the Senate Intelligence Committee, say they have worked with privacy groups to tighten requirements to remove personal information.

“They’re not for any bill,” Burr said at a recent event, noting that CISA’s language expressly forbids the bill from authorizing any new surveillance authority.

“Some people you just can’t satisfy no matter what you do,” Feinstein added, speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.