Cyber bill could let feds spy on library users, advocate warns

Cyber bill could let feds spy on library users, advocate warns
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Librarians are warning that a cybersecurity bill about to hit the Senate floor could help the government spy on people using library computers. 

On Wednesday, the head of the country’s largest advocate for libraries urged senators to oppose the “privacy-hostile” bill known as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

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The measure is meant to boost the exchange of data about hackers between companies and the government.

"When librarians oppose a bill with ‘information sharing’ in its name you can be sure that the bill is decidedly more than advertised,” said Sari Feldman, president of the American Library Association (ALA).

CISA-related lobbying has ramped up in recent weeks as the measure inches closer to the Senate floor. It could come up as early as next week.

While most industry groups, a large bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and even the White House support the bill as a way to better understand and thwart hackers, privacy advocates have argued the measure would simply funnel more of people's private data to the government.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenLobbyists turn to infrastructure law's implementation Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos Overnight Energy & Environment — House passes giant climate, social policy bill MORE (D-Ore.) has been leading a small but growing group of privacy-minded senators who have spoken out against the bill.

Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFauci overwhelmed by calls after journal published mistake over beagle experiments McConnell looks for way out of debt ceiling box Senators make bipartisan push to block 0M weapons sale to Saudis MORE (R-Ky.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Bernie Sanders' ex-spokesperson apprehensive over effectiveness of SALT deductions MORE (I-Vt.), both presidential candidates, have joined Wyden's opposition. They point to what they say are inadequate provisions requiring companies and the government to strip out sensitive data prior to sharing it with intelligence agencies.

“As Sens. Wyden, Paul and Sanders have courageously pointed out in opposition to it, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act would dramatically over-share the personal information of tens of millions of Americans who depend upon library computer networks, and could function, as a practical matter, as a new warrantless surveillance tool,” Feldman said.

The ALA in April joined a large coalition of civil liberties groups, security specialists and academics in a letter to senators expressing similar concerns about CISA.

CISA’s proponents, including co-sponsors Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTexas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term On The Money — IRS chief calls for reinforcements Burr brother-in-law ordered to testify in insider trading probe MORE (R-N.C.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive groups urge Feinstein to back filibuster carve out for voting rights or resign Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Five faces from the media who became political candidates MORE (D-Calif.), have said these allegations are inaccurate.

The two lawmakers, who head the Senate Intelligence Committee, say they have worked with privacy groups to tighten requirements to remove personal information.

“They’re not for any bill,” Burr said at a recent event, noting that CISA’s language expressly forbids the bill from authorizing any new surveillance authority.

“Some people you just can’t satisfy no matter what you do,” Feinstein added, speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.