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Tech Giants Slam US Cybersecurity Bill

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Tech firms voice opposition to US bill amid concerns about data privacy and ‘collateral damage’ to third parties

A number of leading tech firms have voiced their opposition to the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, otherwise known as CISA.

CISA currently has bipartisan support in the United States and is set receive a Senate vote later this month.

Privacy Concerns

The opposition to CISA was voiced in an open letter from the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA). Its members include the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Red Hat, eBay and T-Mobile.

CISA is designed to rework how the US government and private businesses and organisations exchange Internet users’ personal information in return for immunity from regulators and the Freedom of Information Act. In a nutshell, the CISA bill is designed to facilitate the flow of ‘cyber threat’ information between private companies, such as Google, Verizon and Microsoft, and government agencies, such as the FBI or even the NSA.

US Capitol buildingBut many tech firms are worries that the bill fails to protect users’ privacy and could cause “collateral harm” to “innocent third parties”.

“CCIA is unable to support CISA as it is currently written,” it said. CISA’s prescribed mechanism for sharing of cyber threat information does not sufficiently protect users’ privacy or appropriately limit the permissible uses of information shared with the government. In addition, the bill authorises entities to employ network defense measures that might cause collateral harm to the systems of innocent third parties.”

Privacy campaigners are also concerned, due to its vague language and a range of privacy and Internet freedom issues. They fear it could, in fact, broaden the data collecting powers of the NSA and similar agencies.

And CISA does have its opponents in the Senate and the CCIA intervention was welcomed by the bill’s opponents.

Bill Opposition

“CCIA represents some of the biggest names in tech and their opposition to the current version of Cisa is a shot in the arm for those of us fighting for privacy and security,” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

“These companies understand it is untenable and bad for business to enact flawed ‘cybersecurity’ policies that infringe on users’ privacy while doing little to prevent sophisticated hacks,” said Wyden. “By coming out against this bill, CCIA’s members, including Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, have made the clear statement that they have their users’ backs.”

The CISA bill is not the only controversial piece of legislation going through the system at the moment. The Protecting Cyber Networks Act for example enjoys significant bipartisan support, and was approved by the House of Representatives in April this year.

Earlier this week the Microsoft Transparency Hub revealed that it had experienced a slight rise in requests for customer information from law enforcement agencies in the first half of 2015.

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