After years of debate and maneuvering, a major cybersecurity bill is finally on the fast track to approval after lawmakers attached it to a $1.1 trillion government spending package early Wednesday morning.
While business groups and national security hawks are cheering the news, it’s a major blow to privacy advocates, who fear the measure will funnel more of Americans’ personal information into the hands of the National Security Agency.
The legislation, now called the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, would encourage companies to share information about computer viruses and other cybersecurity threats with each other and the government. The bill would shield companies from lawsuits by their users for giving private information to the government as part of the program.
Supporters say the legislation is critical for ensuring the government and private industry can work together to thwart attacks on the nation’s computer systems. “This cyberbill is a ‘Team America’ approach that will significantly improve efforts to fight cybercriminals and better protect consumer data and intellectual property,” Tim Pawlenty, the CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, one of the many business groups lobbying for the legislation, said in a statement. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the bill “an important first step to fight back against dangerous cyberattacks.”
But civil-liberties groups warn the latest version of the measure has been stripped of some of the most significant privacy protections, transforming it into a surveillance bill.
“Instead of passing reforms that would have stopped the Anthem…