Apple stakes position against controversial cyber bill

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Apple is staking out a public position against a controversial cybersecurity bill, just as the Senate takes up the long-stalled legislation.

"The trust of our customers means everything to us and we don't believe security should come at the expense of their privacy," Apple said in a statement provided to The Washington Post on Tuesday.

The tech giant has quietly opposed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) — intended to boost the flow of threat information between government and industry — but had not taken a formal position.

It joins a last-minute landslide of tech companies and industry groups that are coming out in opposition to the bill.

Wikimedia and Yelp joined opponents Salesforce and reddit over the weekend. The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and the Business Software Alliance, both influential trade groups, have also registered disapproval.

The sudden input from the tech industry complicates smooth passage of the bill, giving privacy advocates and staunch CISA detractors more ammunition for what was once seen as a losing cause.

Opposition to the bill stems in large part from concerns that the bill would merely funnel more personal information to a government that has shown it is incapable of protecting it, weakening systemic cybersecurity in the process.

Others say the scramble to come out against the bill reflects the pressure tech companies are under to be seen as tough on privacy in the wake of the revelations of government whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“It’s a noncontroversial position to take to oppose the bill,” Ryan Kalember, senior vice president of cybersecurity strategy at the security firm Proofpoint, told The Hill. 

“The default position in light of Snowden is going to be an attempt to protect privacy and to hold that goal above almost everything else except maybe revenue generation,” he added. 

In other words, some tech leaders say that companies can’t afford to be seen as collaborating with the government from a public relations standpoint — it’s bad for the brand, especially with privacy advoacy groups and lawmakers like Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenCanada expresses willingness to finish softwood lumber deal Dem pushes Treasury for info on Syria sanctions The holy grail of tax policy MORE (D-Ore.) actively painting CISA as a “surveillance bill.” 

Some tech companies say they want more granular detail about exactly what information companies could share with the government and how federal officials could use that data.

“We’re looking to see improvements to the bill,” said Bijan Madhani, regulatory counsel at CCIA, with members including Silicon Valley bigwigs Facebook, Google and Yahoo, telecom companies such as Sprint, e-commerce giants Amazon and eBay, and Netflix and Microsoft.

“People like to have clarity when they’re doing this kind of sharing,” Madhani told The Hill. “Right now information gets shared, but it’s sort of less structured.”

The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday morning on how to proceed on a series of contentious amendments to the bill.