Financial industry hits back at privacy groups over cyber bill

The financial industry is hitting back against privacy advocates who have been building a grassroots movement against the major cybersecurity bill set to hit the Senate floor this week.

The Financial Services Roundtable (FSR) on Monday introduced an advertising campaign at stopcyberthreats.com, encouraging lawmakers to pass the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

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The bill would shield companies from legal liability when sharing data on hackers with the government, boosting the overall exchange of information between both sides. Supporters, including most industry groups, argue the swap is necessary to help industry and the government better understand and thwart potential cyberattacks.

“Under current law, the companies can state they are the victim of an attack, but can’t describe the attacker or ‘getaway car’ without facing potential civil and, for some sectors, criminal liability,” an ad states. “That is the status quo and is it not acceptable.”

The ad campaign appears to be a direct response to stopcyberspying.com, a website launched last week by a broad coalition of privacy and digital rights advocates in an effort to kill CISA. The groups argue the measure would simply shuttle American citizens’ personal data to government intelligence agencies, empowering intrusive surveillance programs.

The bill, they say, isn't proactive enough in its requirements that companies seek out and scrub sensitive data before sharing it with the government.

A form on stopcyberspying.com allows people to write and send a fax to all senators’ offices expressing their privacy concerns about CISA. Since the campaign was initiated, more than 6 million faxes have blanketed the upper chamber.

The FSR ads punch back at privacy advocates’ claims in a Myths vs. Facts ad.

Myth: “Proposed legislation includes inadequate protections prior to sharing.”

Fact: “The legislation has strong privacy provisions that require both private entities and the federal government to remove all personal information unrelated to a cyber threat. Trust is paramount for the financial services industry and its customers.”

It also tries to counter the argument that CISA would strengthen existing spying programs at the National Security Agency, which just had its surveillance powers curbed by Congress.

CISA “is not meant to legalize or promote bulk data collection of individuals’ personal information, account information or purchase histories,” the website says.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Senator asked FBI to follow up on new information about Kavanaugh last year Congress must reinstate assault weapons ban MORE (R-Ky.) has said he will turn to CISA after the Senate votes on a bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding. 

That would mean the CISA debate would start in earnest on Wednesday, with a final vote potentially sometime Thursday.

But a privacy-minded wing of the Senate, led by Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenProgressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum Key Senate Democrat unveils proposal to tax the rich Overnight Health Care: Trump seeks ban on flavored e-cigarettes | Purdue Pharma nears settlement with states, cities over alleged role in opioid epidemic | Senate panel cancels vote on key spending bill amid standoff MORE (D-Ore.), is leading a charge against the bill. Absent a broad deal that would limit the number of amendments offered on the bill, it is unlikely lawmakers will have time to complete CISA before recessing for the month of August.