By Brendan Sasso - 05/15/12 07:18 PM EDT
“As written, the legislation moves aside decades of privacy laws to allow companies to freely monitor American citizens’ communications and give their personal information to the federal government — and grants companies near total immunity for doing so. While there’s no question that we have to better protect ourselves from cybersecurity threats, that doesn’t have to come at the expense of American citizens’ civil liberties.”
Leading civil-liberties groups, including the the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, came out against the Cybersecurity Act last week.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and one of the bill's leading supporters, told The Hill on Tuesday she is open to making changes to the bill's privacy protections to win over the critics.
The bill, which is sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), would remove legal barriers that prevent companies from sharing information with each other and with the government. It would also set minimum cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure, such as electrical grids or gas pipelines.
The civil-liberties groups worry that the bill would allow military spy agencies to gain access to people's personal information.
The measure is widely considered to have stronger privacy protections than the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which the House approved last month despite a veto threat from the White House.