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White House signals it won't support CISPA in present form

Jaikumar Vijayan | April 12, 2013
In what's quickly turning out to be a replay of events from last year, the White House today signaled that it would not support the recently reintroduced Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in its present form.

Privacy and rights advocacy groups, however, see CISPA as a looming threat to privacy. Many digital rights groups fear the bill will open up an opportunity for government agencies to collect and monitor vast amounts of Internet user data under the pretext of cybersecurity. They worry that the bill will allow ISPs to share data with the government and others with impunity, and with little fear of legal action.

"The changes to the bill don't address the major privacy problems we have been raising about CISPA for almost a year and a half," American Civil Liberties union (ACLU) legislative council Michelle Richardson said in a statement. "CISPA still permits companies to share sensitive and personal customer information with the government and allows the National Security Agency to collect the Internet records of everyday Americans."

The fact that the bill was voted on on Wednesday, after a markup session in which the media and public was excluded, has only heightened such concerns. "It's a sign that the committee members aren't interested in a vigorous public debate on the bill," said Mark Jaycox, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "With this closed markup Congress is actually making law in secret. It's a step backwards."

The House approved CISPA last year despite such concerns. But attempts to pass a companion bill in the Senate failed amid vocal protests from rights groups and a threat by President Obama to veto the bill if it landed on his desk.


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