White House threatens to veto CISPA ahead of vote

The White House said it is concerned that the bill does not adequately prevent sharing of irrelevant personal information

The White House has threatened to veto the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in its present form, citing concerns that the bill does not adequately prevent sharing of irrelevant personal information.

If the bill in its current form were presented to President Barack Obama, his advisors would recommend that he veto the bill, the executive office of the President said in a statement on Tuesday.

The cyberthreat information-sharing bill, also referred to as H.R. 624, will be debated in the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

The administration said it "recognizes and appreciates" that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence adopted several amendments to H.R. 624 in an effort to address the administration's concerns.

The bill appropriately requires the federal government to protect privacy when handling cybersecurity information, according to the statement. "Importantly, the Committee removed the broad national security exemption, which significantly weakened the restrictions on how this information could be used by the government," it added.

The administration, however, remains concerned that the bill does not require private entities to take reasonable steps to remove irrelevant personal information when sending cybersecurity data to the government or other private sector entities. "Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held accountable -- and not granted immunity -- for failing to safeguard personal information adequately," it said.

The legislation should also ensure that cybercrime victims continue to report the crimes directly to federal law enforcement agencies, and continue to receive the same protections they do currently, according to the statement.

The White House had also threatened to veto CISPA last year again on the issue of privacy safeguards.

CISPA still features vague language that could put personal information in the hands of military organizations like the National Security Agency, despite recent amendments, digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation said Tuesday while asking people to call their representatives and tweet the House Intelligence Committee to oppose the bill.

Civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have opposed the bill, though some industry bodies like software trade group BSA support it. 34 organizations including ACLU and EFF wrote a joint letter to Congressional Representatives on Monday stating that they continue to oppose the bill, as the amendments "were woefully inadequate to cure the civil liberties threats" posed by the bill.

One amendment, for example, stops the use of information collected under CISPA for any "national security" purpose, but still allows for the use of the data in the context of poorly-defined purposes such as a "cybersecurity purpose," EFF said.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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