John McCain  (Source:
ACLU believes the bill would give U.S. government agencies access to civilian Internet activity

Republican Senator John McCain's new cybersecurity bill has caught some negative attention from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

McCain's cybersecurity bill, which was introduced last week, supports the voluntary sharing of information instead of regulation of "critical industries" by the Department of Homeland Security. The bill also states that private companies, such as Internet service providers, could send the government information regarding network activity or protocols connected to malicious users.

McCain, who constructed the bill with seven other Republicans, said he wanted the National Security Agency, which has powerful spy tools, to be more involved in cybersecurity matters. He also mentioned that cybersecurity centers could use the information they obtain in order to look into cyber crimes.

However, the ACLU believes that McCain's bill could be problematic. For instance, it worries the ACLU that the bill could give U.S. intelligence agencies access to private emails.

"This is a privacy nightmare that will eventually result in the military substantially monitoring the domestic, civilian Internet," said Michelle Richardson of the ACLU. "It is absolutely critical that if the government wants to collect information, it go through a civilian agency."

An anonymous individual working on the bill said there was nothing in the legislation that would allow the sharing of emails that have nothing to do with cyber threats. McCain's spokesman, Brian Rogers, also defended the bill saying that McCain's only intentions are to address cybersecurity concerns.

"Senator McCain's priority in crafting this bill has been to make sure it strengthens our security while continuing to safeguard the privacy of consumers," said Rogers. "He remains open to addressing legitimate concerns as this process moves forward."

There is also an alternative to McCain's bill, which was constructed by Democrats and supported by Majority Leader Harry Reid. This version prefers to leave cybersecurity to DHS. However, an anonymous Senate aide said that neither bill will likely pass, and that a compromise is expected in the "coming weeks."

Cybersecurity has certainly become a hot topic over the past year especially after hacker groups like Anonymous and LulzSec took advantage of many corporate and government websites. Finding solutions has been a balancing act between protecting critical information on computers and protecting citizens from invasive monitoring.

Source: Reuters

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