OVERNIGHT TECH: Changes announced to cybersecurity bill

THE LEAD: Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said Tuesday they will offer several amendments to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) to address the concerns of privacy groups.

The goal of CISPA is to help companies beef up their defenses against hackers who steal business secrets and customers' financial information, and wreak havoc on computer systems. The bill would tear down legal barriers that discourage companies from sharing information about cyber threats. 

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But civil-liberties groups warned the measure would encourage companies to hand over private information to government spy agencies.


One amendment would tighten limitations on how the government can use the information it collects. The government would only be able to use the information to protect against a cyberattack, investigate cyber crime, protect national security, protect against theft or bodily harm or to protect minors from child pornography.

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The changes would also narrow the definition of "cyber threat information" and would bar the federal government from retaining or using information beyond the explicit purposes of the bill. Another amendment would restrict the scope of the liability protections for companies that turn over data to the government.

The changes address many of the core concerns of privacy groups, but notably would not prevent spy agencies, such as the National Security Agency (NSA) or the CIA, from accessing the information. The privacy groups argue that a domestic agency, such as the Homeland Security Department, would be a more appropriate body to handle the personal information. 

The Center for Democracy and Technology applauded the changes but said it still has concerns:

"In sum, good progress has been made. The Committee listened to our concerns and has made important privacy improvements and we applaud the Committee for doing so. However, the bill falls short because of the remaining concerns — the flow of internet data directly to the NSA and the use of information for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity. We support amendments to address these concerns. Recognizing the importance of the cybersecurity issue, in deference to the good faith efforts made by Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Ruppersberger, and on the understanding that amendments will be considered by the House to address our concerns, we will not oppose the process moving forward in the House. We will focus on the amendments and subsequently on the Senate."

Officials from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, which have also been campaigning against the bill, said they would need to take a close look at the amendments before they could comment.

No deal on FCC nominees yet: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) received another batch of documents from the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, but he has no immediate plans to lift his hold on the president's two FCC nominees.

Grassley is demanding that the FCC turn over documents related to its review of wireless start-up LightSquared.

A Grassley spokeswoman said:

“After learning from reporters today that Sen. Rockefeller had described the FCC’s production of more documents, Sen. Grassley’s staff contacted the House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans who requested documents. When the House committee confirmed receipt of a second batch of documents from the FCC, Sen. Grassley’s staff retrieved the documents on disc. It’s unclear whether the documents contain internal, previously unreleased materials related to the FCC’s decision-making on LightSquared. Sen. Grassley’s staff is reviewing the documents now. His staff has been told the latest batch consists of approximately 5,900 FCC documents. So far, of the first 1,174 pages reviewed, 1,171 pages are news clips that are publicly available. In the prior batch of FCC documents received from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, many of the newly ‘unredacted’ documents consisted of phone numbers and other technical details unrelated to agency decision-making. 

“Sen. Grassley has asked consistently, beginning with and since his initial request of April 27, 2011, for internal documents that would shed light into why the FCC appeared to give expedited initial approval to LightSquared’s wireless project. Sen. Grassley has not ‘moved the ball’ on the nature of the documents he’s been seeking. He simply wants access to FCC documents so he can determine whether the FCC is performing due diligence before approving major projects involving public resources and affecting consumers. By repeatedly denying Sen. Grassley’s request to view FCC documents, the FCC has prolonged this inquiry into its one-year duration and raised questions about its commitment to transparency and congressional oversight.”


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said consumers pay too much for TV.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) plans to offer an amendment to CISPA.

IAC Chairman Barry Diller called for a rewrite of telecommunications law.

Groups told the FCC they are unable to view information submitted by Verizon.