GOP chairman: Google ‘supportive’ of controversial cybersecurity bill CISPA

Google has been working behind the scenes with lawmakers in the House on a controversial cybersecurity bill, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) told The Hill.

Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Google has been “supportive” of his Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which has angered some of the same Internet activists who joined with Google to defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

“They’ve been helpful and supportive of trying to find the right language in the bill,” Rogers said, adding that Google wants to protect consumers’ privacy and prevent regulation of the Internet.

{mosads}Although some Web companies, including Facebook, have come out in support of CISPA, Google has not taken a public position on the bill.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

Rogers made the comments after a speech on Capitol Hill hosted by the Ripon Society, a Republican public policy group. Seth Webb, a lobbyist for Google, introduced him.

A coalition of activist groups, including many veterans of the fight against anti-piracy legislation earlier this year, organized protests this week against CISPA, warning it would undermine online privacy.

The campaign aims to replicate the backlash that derailed the SOPA and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in January. 

Groups including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and Free Press launched a Twitter campaign to draw attention to the issue and are encouraging people to contact their representatives in Congress.

Google played a central role in the protests against SOPA and PIPA, blacking out its logo and gathering more than 7 million signatures for a petition against the legislation.

The company warned that the anti-piracy bills would lead to censorship of the Internet.

But Rogers said technology companies support his cybersecurity bill because it relies on voluntary information-sharing to help companies combat cyberattacks.

“I always said if I could get Palo Alto and New York City on the same bill, I got something,” Rogers said in the speech, referring to the technology and financial services sectors. “We found that sweet spot in this particular bill.” 

Other supporters of CISPA include Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Symantec, AT&T and Verizon.

Rogers said he has had “robust discussions” with technology companies and has been to Silicon Valley three or four times to discuss his bill, which he is co-sponsoring with Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.). 

CISPA, which is scheduled for a vote in the House next week, would tear down legal barriers that discourage companies from sharing information about cyberattacks.

But activists fear it would undermine the privacy of Internet users and argue the broad language of the bill could lead companies to hand over information unrelated to cyberattacks, including users’ names, addresses and Internet activity. 

On Tuesday, Rogers said the privacy protests are “like turbulence on the way down to landing” for the bill.

He released a revised version of CISPA on Monday evening that is aimed at addressing the concerns of the privacy community.

The new draft of the bill uses a different definition for a “cyber threat” that leaves out any reference to intellectual property infringement. The change is aimed at reassuring activists that the bill is not an attempt at cracking down on online piracy.

The new version would also give people and companies the right to sue the government if it mishandles the online threat information and gives the Homeland Security Department more of a role in collecting the information shared with the government. Privacy advocates prefer that a domestic agency like Homeland Security play a central role in the information-sharing process instead of a spy agency like the National Security Agency (NSA).

But Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the ACLU, noted that bill would still allow companies to hand over personal user information directly to the NSA.

She said the changes are mostly “cosmetic” and do not alleviate the privacy concerns of the bill’s critics. 

Kendall Burman, a senior fellow for the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the changes “do not touch the core concerns” the group has with the bill.

Rogers said he has made “huge progress” with the privacy community. He said negotiations are still continuing but that “nothing is going to radically change” before the House votes on the bill.

The GOP chairman said he expects the House will approve CISPA on a bipartisan vote.

— This story was updated at 3:48 p.m.


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