Security vs Privacy: US Senate Passes Cyber Bill

If your security is more important that your privacy, you probably will appreciate the vote of the US Senate to pass the contentious Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

The bill makes it possible for companies and organizations to present proof of cyber-attacks with the United States government, free of any lawsuit even if the given information violates one’s privacy.

The Gist

The vote facilitates the end of an almost five-year challenge to persuade businesses and organizations to share details about threats made online with the Department of Homeland Security.

In 2013, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act was sanctioned by the Congress, but hit the brick wall of the Senate. The CISA bill was first presented in 2014 but was unable reach the Senate before the Congress session concluded.

The vote was 74 to 21 supporting the legislation. US President Obama may still veto the vote, although this is highly unlikely as The White House endorsed the bill last August.

The Divide

Supporters of the bill say that CISA makes it much simpler for the authorities to organize and manage threat details and responses within the companies and organizations that require it. On the other hand, opponents, which include several tech giants, point out that the bill can give the government an amplified flexibility to spy on Americans.

For the CISA supporters, the approval of the bill is a positive step toward improving the America’s cyber-security. For the opposition, the bill affords an unstable cyber-security decree that can be easily manipulated.

One of the key issues that made the bill controversial is that CISA permits companies and organizations to share details directly with the authorities and intelligence agencies. For critics, what’s particularly troubling is that the details may include work and personal emails, text messages and other data that can easily identify individuals. Although companies and organizations are expected to remove private information prior to sending information to the authorities, the chance that the government’s personal identifiers may still slide through.

Many of the giant tech firms are opposed to the bill, reasoning it will abate the trust of their users in sharing personal information. Those who publicly opposed the bill includes the Business Software Alliance, Apple, Twitter, Communications Industry Association, and Reddit. Ahead of the vote, an organization of various university professors who specialize in tech law, a great many are members of the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy, directed an open letter to the US Senate. They encouraged the Senate to not to support the bill as CISA, they penned, will gravely undercut the Freedom of Information Act. Jasper Graham, a former technical director of NSA, stated that information sharing or otherwise, the divide will always be worse within the government than in the private sector.

The Approval

Traders who sell electronics and tech experts say that the cyber-attacks on various government agents and prominent international companies like Sony Pictures and United Airlines may have greatly persuaded the Senate to approve the cyber bill. The latest cyber scandal featuring the extramarital affairs site Ashley Madison may also have nudged the authorities to finally say “yes” to prioritize security over privacy.