House passes controversial cybersecurity bill CISPA

Congress passes CISPA

The House of Representatives quickly passed controversial cybersecurity bill CISPA yesterday.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is designed to encourage the government and corporations to share information on internet security and threats to prevent cyber attacks from foreign entities.

It passed in Congress with a bipartisan vote of 248-168.

However, civil liberties groups say that the bill's measures are too broad.

Critics state the bill enables internet service providers to monitor any of a customer's private communications, including email and instant messages, and share that information with the government without a warrant or court order if it is believed to relate to cybersecurity or national security.

Information shared in this way could then be retained by government agencies and used for investigations outside of the bill's scope.

The bill enables internet service providers to monitor any of a customer's private communications.

An amendment was added to the bill shortly before it passed which expanded the bill to protect the sharing of information pertaining to investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes, protection of individuals from serious bodily harm, and protection of minors from child pornography.

ACLU opposes CISPA's passing

A coalition of civil liberties groups including the ACLU, Center for Democracy & Technology, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a statement against the bill's passing:

"CISPA's 'information sharing' regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like internet use history or the content of emails, to any agency in the government including military and intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency or the Department of Defense Cyber Command. Once in government hands, this information can be used for undefined 'national security' purposes unrelated to cybersecurity."

CISPA bears similarities to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act that were introduced earlier year.

SOPA and PIPA came under fire by widespread online activism inspired by online privacy concerns. As a result of the mounting pressure, Congress delayed a vote on both bills.

CISPA will now move to the Senate, which is already reviewing a separate bill that places cybersecurity matters with Homeland Security rather than shared between government agencies and corporations.

The Obama administration has threatened to veto CISPA if it passes the Senate.