Homeland Security Joins Civil Libertarians in Seeing Privacy Threat from Cybersecurity Bill

Thursday, August 06, 2015
(AP photo)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and civil libertarians are often on opposite sides of privacy issues, but this week they found themselves sharing the same concerns about a cybersecurity bill in the U.S. Senate.


Civil liberties groups have said the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which is scheduled to be voted on in September, could weaken privacy protections for individual Americans’ personal information. DHS reported that CISA would allow tech companies, data brokers and others to share the data they’d collected on their users with the government.


The American Civil Liberty Union’s Nathaniel J. Turner outlined his organization’s concerns with the bill in Common Dreams. “CISA’s vague language and expansive definitions will give the government new ways to collect and use the personal information and communications of innocent Americans, all without a warrant or any review by an independent court or overseer,” Turner wrote. “CISA would allow companies to share information with the government relating to a ‘cybersecurity threat,’ a term defined so broadly in the bill that it could include huge swaths of emails and text messages.”


DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) that some provisions of the legislation “could sweep away important privacy protections” and that the proposed legislation “raises privacy and civil liberties concerns.”


The Guardian reported that the part of CISA “generating the most concern can be found in section 4 of the bill: ‘[a] private entity may, for cybersecurity purposes, monitor A) the information systems of such a private entity; B) the information systems of another entity, upon written consent of such other entity […] and D) information that is stored on, processed by, or transiting the information systems monitored by the private entity under this paragraph.’”


Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) says the bill does not go far enough in protecting privacy. “The managers’ amendment does not fix the provision of this bill that will allow private companies to hand large volumes of their customers’ personal information over to the government with only a cursory review,” he said, according to The Hill. “[It] doesn’t do a whole lot to protect U.S. networks against sophisticated hacks, and it will do a lot to undermine the privacy rights of the American people.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Cybersecurity Bill Could ‘Sweep Away’ Internet Users’ Privacy, Agency Warns (by Sam Thielman, The Guardian)

U.S. Senate Delays Vote on Cyber Security Bill to September (Reuters)

McConnell Presses Senate to Finish Cyber Bill This Week (by Jordain Carney, The Hill)

Fight Against ‘Big Brother’ Heats Up as CISA Bill Advances in Senate (by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams)

Letter to Select Committee on Intelligence (pdf)

Senate Intelligence Committee Approves “a Surveillance Bill by another Name” (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Is New Cyber Security Bill (CISPA) An End-Run around Privacy Restrictions? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment