Despite concerns by some that the measure does not do enough to
protect privacy, the committee voted 12-3 to advance the measure
authored by its chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat,
and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, their
Experts see the bill as the best chance for the current congress to
pass some type of legislation to encourage better cooperation
between the government and private companies to boost the cyber
defenses of critical industries.
"Cyber attacks present the greatest threat to our national and
economic security today, and the magnitude of the threat is
growing," Feinstein said in a statement. "This bill is an important
step toward curbing these dangerous cyber attacks."
U.S. lawmakers have been considering for months legislation to help
private companies better communicate about security breaches and
cyber threats. However, comprehensive cyber bills have been delayed
by spats over liability and concerns about privacy, especially
following the leak of information about government surveillance
programs by former contractor Edward Snowden.
The Senate bill still faces hurdles before becoming law. It must be
approved by the full Senate and reconciled with similar legislation
that passed the House of Representatives in April.
SUPPORT IN THE HOUSE
However, there are already signs that the measure has bipartisan
support in the House. The Republican chairman and top Democrat on
the House Intelligence Committee issued a statement on Tuesday
backing the measure and urging the full Senate to vote quickly.
"We are confident that the House and the Senate will quickly come
together to address this urgent threat and craft a final bill that
secures our networks and protects privacy and civil liberties,"
Michigan Republican Mike Rogers and Maryland Democrat Dutch
Ruppersberger said in a statement.
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Among other things, the bill by Feinstein and Chambliss would
authorize companies and individuals to monitor their own and
consenting customers' networks for hacking and voluntarily share
cyber threat data, stripped of personally identifiable information,
with the government and each other for cybersecurity purposes.
The legislation also directs the U.S. director of national
intelligence to increase the amount of information the government
shares with private firms and the Department of Homeland Security to
set up and manage a data sharing portal.
The measure would also offer liability protections to companies that
appropriately monitor their networks or share cyber threat data and
limit the government's ability to use data it receives.
Some privacy advocates have opposed giving companies liability
protections, worried about abuses of consumer data both by the
private sector and the government.
Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado,
both members of the intelligence committee, said after the vote that
they had opposed the bill because they felt it did not include
sufficient privacy protections.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh in Toronto, additional reporting by
Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio)
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