The US Senate Intelligence Committee approved Tuesday a cybersecurity bill that would pave the way for sharing of information between government and the private sector on security threats. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia, said that the committee had approved the bill in a 12-3 vote. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act has been criticized by civil liberties and privacy groups because of the potential privacy implications of the sharing of data by companies with the government. Information including communications content shared with the government could potentially be used in various law enforcement investigations, including the investigation and prosecution of government whistle-blowers, the groups wrote in a letter in June to the Senate Committee.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee quietly approved a new cybersecurity bill late in the day on Tuesday in a 12-3 vote. Labeled as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, the legislation was written to encourage and open up more types of information that can be shared between government agencies and the private sector. Proponents of the bill argue the proposal shores up national security — especially in the wake of more and more attacks on retail and commercial computer systems, jeopardizing sensitive personal data on millions of people. The bill includes liability protections for individuals and companies that voluntarily choose to share cyberthreat information with the federal government, which in turn is said to be limited in how it can then use that data for its own purposes. As the bill covers both classified and unclassified cyberthreat information, federal agencies affected by the proposed measures will need to routinely report how they use the shared information to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and respective inspectors general. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act was co-authored by the committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and vice chairman, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). In a statement on Tuesday, Feinstein asserted, “Cyber attacks present the greatest threat to our national and economic security today, and the magnitude of the threat is growing.”