April 17, 2013, 6:00 PM — The U.S. House of Representatives moved closer Wednesday toward the passage of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), despite concerns that the cyberthreat information-sharing bill will allow Web-based companies to share a wide amount of customer information with government agencies.
The House on Wednesday debated several amendments to the bill, some of them minor changes related to what groups government agencies can share cyberthreat information with. The House, in a 227-192 vote Wednesday, rejected efforts by some Democrats to allow additional amendments to overhaul privacy protections in the bill.
The House is scheduled to continue debate on amendments and vote on CISPA Thursday. The bill is likely to pass in the House, even though President Barack Obama has threatened a veto over privacy concerns.
The bill is a backdoor attack on the U.S. Constitution's fourth amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches, said Representative Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat. "This is the biggest government takeover of personal information that I've seen during my time here in Congress," he said.
CISPA would allow government intelligence agencies to share cyberthreat information with private companies and would allow private companies to share the same information with each other and with government agencies. The bill protects companies that share cyberthreat information from lawsuits by customers.
The bill is needed because U.S. intelligence agencies are now prohibited from sharing classified information with private companies under current U.S. law, supporters said. Several lawmakers said the bill is an important step forward in the fight against pervasive cyberattacks.
The bill allows, but does not require, private companies to share information with government agencies, and the bill limits government agencies to using the shared information for cybersecurity and a handful of other purposes, said Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chief sponsor of CISPA.
In addition, the bill requires intelligence agencies to issue an annual report on the privacy implications of CISPA, he said. The House Intelligence Committee made 19 changes to the bill this year in response to privacy concerns, he said.
CISPA only allows companies to share "ones and zeros" with government agencies in "machine-to-machine" transfers of information about cyberthreats, Rogers said.