This Week in Tech: House panel to vote on cybersecurity bill

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Speculation has been swirling for weeks about possible amendments the two House Intelligence Committee leaders plan to propose for their measure and whether it will be enough to satisfy its critics, including the White House.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA, would also grant companies protection from lawsuits if they share data about online threats they spot on their computer networks, in good faith, with the government. The bill's authors say the intent of the bill is to help companies thwart cyberattacks immediately and protect their intellectual property from hackers.

However, privacy advocates are worried that CISPA would open the door for companies to increase the pool of people’s electronic communications that flows to the intelligence community, including to the National Security Agency.

CISPA passed the House last spring, drawing a veto threat from the White House.

Along with privacy advocates, the Obama administration criticized CISPA, in part, because officials believed it lacked adequate protections requiring companies to remove people’s personal information from cyber threat data prior to sharing it with the government and other businesses.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) plans to offer an amendment during the markup that will tackle that concern. The amendment would require companies to remove any information “that can be used to identify a specific person unrelated to a cyber threat” before passing the data to the government or private sector.

It would allow companies to “make use of automated processes” to digitally remove personal information from cyber threat data before it's shared.

The markup will be closed to the public because the discussion may include classified information.

It's unclear what the White House's response to CISPA will be this time around. The administration does not weigh in on legislation until it comes to the floor for a vote. But the likely aim for Rogers and Ruppersberger during Wednesday's markup is to tamp down the administration's criticism of their bill this year.

In other tech news, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology will take up legislation to make it to the official policy of the United States to promote Internet freedom. The panel will hold opening statements on Wednesday afternoon and mark up the bill on Thursday afternoon.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday morning to examine problems with rural communications. The witnesses will be representatives from CenturyLink, Ritter Communications, Boycom Cablevision, and Telephone and Data Systems. The Federal Communications Commission proposed rules earlier this year to investigate problems with completing rural calls.

On Friday, the House Homeland Security Committee's subpanel on oversight will examine the impact of sequestration on homeland security. Witnesses have not been announced yet.


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