Critics urge lawmakers to repeal recently passed cyber law

The push to repeal a recently approved cybersecurity law gained momentum on Monday.

A coalition of libertarian, civil liberties and digital privacy groups sent House members a letter urging them to support a bill that would undo the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which President Obama signed into law in December.

{mosads}“The Cybersecurity Act of 2015 included provisions unacceptable to the technology community, privacy and open-government advocates, as well as ordinary Americans,” the group’s letter says.

The bill will offer companies legal incentives to share more data on cyber threats with the government.

Supporters — including many industry groups and most lawmakers — say this heightened exchange of information is needed to better understand and thwart hackers. But many tech companies and privacy and civil liberties advocates believe the bill will simply shuttle more sensitive data on Americans to intelligence agencies.

Earlier this month, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a prominent libertarian voice on Capitol Hill, introduced a bill with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) that would repeal the law.

Amash called the new measure “the worst anti-privacy law since the USA Patriot Act.”

In its letter to lawmakers, the coalition echoed Amash’s criticisms.

“These provisions [in the cyber bill] are unlikely to increase the government’s ability to detect, intercept and thwart cyber attacks, yet they institute broad and undefined data-collection capabilities that are certain to undermine government accountability and further erode privacy protections,” it reads.

The bill’s backers insist the law clearly defines what type of data the government can collect, and includes strict provisions to strip all datasets of personal information before the data is shared widely throughout the government.

But the coalition — which includes the American Civil Liberties Union, digital rights group the Center for Democracy and Technology, government transparency group Open the Government and the libertarian R Street Institute — strongly disagrees.

The bill, the group argues, contains “no reasonable limits on the type of information that can be shared, such as individuals’ personal online communications.”

The detractors also take issue with the final negotiations that merged the House and Senate versions of the cyber bill. Lawmakers combined the bills through unofficial meetings instead of the traditional conference process.

The final version of the legislation was then attached to the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that was passed just before the late December recess.

“Questions of cybersecurity and privacy should be debated openly in a manner that allows legislators and the public to criticize and participate,” the letter reads. “These questions should not be obscured by backroom deals that exclude critical perspectives and due process.”

The coalition called on lawmakers to repeal the bill and restart the debate in a more transparent fashion.

“Measures to strengthen cybersecurity should not come at the expense of exposing law-abiding Americans’ private information to government surveillance,” the letter says.

Tags Justin Amash

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