'Significant' number of senators backing privacy push, Wyden says

A “significant” number of senators are working to draft privacy amendments for a major cyber bill moving forward in the Senate, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenFrustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal On The Money: Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock | Meadows, Pelosi trade criticism on stalled stimulus talks | Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock MORE (D-Ore.) said Friday.

“There is a good group of senators who have approached us about saying they want to work for additional privacy protections when this bill comes to the floor,” Wyden said Friday during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which would grant companies liability protections when sharing cyber threat data with the government, passed the Senate Intelligence Committee by a 14-1 vote in March.

ADVERTISEMENT

Most industry groups, and a wide range of lawmakers and government officials, are backing the bill. They believe the measure is a necessary first step to better understand hackers’ tactics and defend critical networks.  

Privacy advocates have lambasted the measure as simply another surveillance outlet for the National Security Agency (NSA), which would receive some of the data shared by companies.

Wyden, a vocal NSA critic, was the lone dissenting vote during the committee markup. He maintained that the bill fell short on privacy provisions, and he isn't alone in that view.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyVermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism VOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Hillicon Valley: Twitter bans thousands of QAnon accounts | Bipartisan support grows for election funds in Senate stimulus bill | Senate committee advances bill to ban TikTok from federal devices MORE (D-Vt.) told The Hill on Thursday that he is one of those senators involved in the effort to draft new privacy protections for the bill.

Last Congress, Leahy backed the USA Freedom Act, which would have eliminated some of the more controversial NSA data collection programs.

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining Lawmakers weigh increased telework as some agencies push federal workers back to the office MORE (D-Del.), who has offered his own cyber bill, has also expressed privacy concerns about CISA. But he told The Hill that Intelligence panel leaders have since folded in more than half of his suggestions, improving his opinion of the measure.

ADVERTISEMENT

Wyden said the forming coalition is robust. “An awful lot of Senate staff” members have approached his office, the Oregon Democrat said.

The reform-minded senators agree information sharing is needed to address the growing cyber threat but that better guidelines to restrict NSA reach and ensure Americans’ sensitive information is not shared with intelligence agencies.

During the Intelligence panel’s markup, Wyden offered an amendment that would have forbidden the government from mandating companies insert weaknesses into their products, giving government a “back door” through any encryption.

That issue has driven a wedge between privacy-minded lawmakers and government officials.

The committee shot down the proposal, but it seems as if it might get another shot as a floor amendment.

“I will tell you I am going to fight for this as hard as anything I can imagine,” Wyden said.