With Senate cybersecurity bill stalled, opponents want more changes
The chances of passage this year are dimming
August 02, 2012 — CSO — The 2012 Cybersecurity Act (CSA) is dead, at least for now, after backers of the bill in the U.S. Senate couldn't get the needed 60 votes to end debate on the measure and bring it to a vote. Last-minute revisions and a major push by the White Housewere not enough to save the bill.
The 52-46 vote to end debate was largely on party lines, with most Republicans opposed and most Democrats in favor of the measure. Despite the frustration of supporters, privacy advocates were pleased, especially since chances of passage are dimming.
Rainey Reitman, activism director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said the group had sought revisions to "put some real privacy protections in place. And there is definitely the fear that if Congress takes up another bill in the future, it might not have them. That is very worrisome.
"There are serious privacy problems that haven't been resolved," she said, pointing to Section 701. That part of the bill, she said, "gives companies new affirmative authority to engage in 'countermeasures,' like dropping packets or monitoring our personal communications if they do so for cybersecurity purposes."
EFF was concerned enough about the eavesdropping that it launched an online campaign called "Stop Cyber Spying."
The EFF had serious doubts that the bill would provide the protections intended, Reitman said. "So we can all be glad that it failed, and hope that when they take it up again, they will address the issues that have been raised."
EFF and other privacy advocates weren't alone. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill as well. R. Bruce Josten, executive director of government affairs, in a July 25 letter, called the measure "deeply flawed" and wanted the Senate to take more time to consider what the bill would do.
The Chamber and other business groups want more protections involving information sharing between the private and public sector. Josten wrote that the Chamber supports an alternative bill proposed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the SECURE IT Act of 2012. That bill, he said, would provide, "certainty that threat and vulnerability information voluntarily shared with the government will not lead to frivolous lawsuits, will not be publicly disclosed, and could not be used by officials to regulate other activities."
On The Foundry, the blog of the conservative Heritage Foundation, David Inserra wrote that CSA, "seeks to solve our cybersecurity ills, but only threatens to make the situation worse.