Senate Intelligence Committee Approves Cyber Security Bill Despite Privacy Concerns

The bill aims at fostering communication between private businesses and government agencies, but Ore. Senator Ron Wyden and consumer privacy advocates say it's not enough.

by Ian K. Kullgren, McClatchy News Service / July 9, 2014
Ore. Senator Ron Wyden (pictured above) expressed concern for the proposed bill's ability to keep individuals' information secure and the need for strong protection of constitutional privacy rights. Flickr/JD Lasica

The Senate Intelligence Committee approved a bill Tuesday that would allow companies to share information about consumers' networks, despite privacy concerns from Sen. Ron Wyden.

The bill, which aims at fostering closer cooperation between private businesses and government agencies to root out cybersecurity threats, would allow companies to voluntarily share information with government agencies and each other, Reuters reported.

It would also direct the government to increase the amount of information it shares to private companies via a new portal managed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Wyden, D-Oregon, and other consumer privacy advocates said the bill does not do enough to keep individuals' information secure.

"The only way to make cybersecurity information-sharing effective and acceptable is to ensure that there are strong protections for Americans' constitutional privacy rights. Without these protections in place, private companies will rightly see participation as bad for business," Wyden said in a joint statement released with Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado. "We are concerned that the bill the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reported today lacks adequate protections for the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans, and that it will not materially improve cybersecurity."

The bill's author, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., described it as a necessary measure to protect national security.

"To strengthen our networks, the government and private sector need to share information about attacks they are facing and how best to defend against them," Feinstein, who serves as the committee's chairwoman, said in a statement. "This bill provides for that sharing through a purely voluntary process and with significant measures to protect private information."

The bill passed in a 12-3 vote, and will now head to the Senate floor.

©2014 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)