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27 April 2012, 15:53

CISPA: US House of Representatives votes in favour of the cyber security act

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Scales icon With 248 votes for, 168 against and 15 abstentions, the US House of Representatives has approved the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The act is intended to regulate the exchange of information on cyber threats between private organisations and government institutions such as intelligence services. Various amendments to the act have also been approved, including a proposalPDF by Republican Bob Goodlatte that more narrowly defines the information that can be passed on to federal agencies.

The representatives rejected a proposal by Democrat James Langevin, who suggested that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) be given a greater role in the security monitoring of the internet. This proposal would have had the support of US President Barack Obama, who had said, shortly before the vote,that he was against the act. The Republicans, who hold the majority in the House of Representatives and are usually critical of any government mandate to control or regulate, mostly voted against the amendment.

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has expressed its unhappiness with the result of the voting; the vote was unexpectedly brought forward by one day from Friday to Thursday. The CDT said that it was particularly disappointed that the House leadership chose to block amendments that would have regulated the flow of information from the private sector to the National Security Agency (NSA), and the use of that information within US government agencies. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) civil rights campaign group has also released a statement to express its displeasure. The bill would allow companies to bypass all existing privacy law to spy on communications and pass sensitive user data to the government, said the EFF. Now, the campaigners' hopes rest with the US Senate, in which the Democrats hold the majority.

In the US Congress' second chamber, the US government is supporting a bill by senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins that would give the DHS the authority to define security standards for the net. "The government applies safety standards for cars, food, building structures and toys, to name a few. Why not do the same for the infrastructure that powers our economy and provides us with the highest standard of living in the world?", the two senators asked in a statement.

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