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The President is threatening to veto the bill if it makes it pass the House and Senate

H.R. 3523 -- or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), as it's better known -- is a pretty interesting piece of legislation.  

Proponents of the bill -- an amendment to the National Security Act of 1947 [PDF] -- claim the bill is vital as it allows private entities to share information on cybersecurity threats with the U.S. government.  This could help protect the private sector against attacks from both malicious rogues and hostile nation states like China.  

Supporters include Facebook, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Intel Corp. (INTC), International Business Machines Inc. (IBM), Oracle Corp. (ORCL), AT&T (T), and Verizon Wireless (VZ).

The bill has overwhelming support in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives with 111 co-sponsors.  It was first introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) in Nov. 2011, and promises that participation would be purely voluntary.

But the bill also has some high profile opponents.  While President Barack Obama (D) has in the past pushed for increased online surveillance of U.S. citizens and immunity for telecoms participating in government wiretapping efforts, curiously his administration reacted strongly to supposed privacy risks the bill raises.

And in the strange bedfellows department, the President is joined by his usual critic Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).  Rep. Paul called the bill "Big Brother writ large."

Ron Paul and Obama
Rep. Ron Paul (left) (R-TX) and President Barack Obama (right) (D) found a rare moment of agreement in opposing a new cybersecurity bill.
[Image Sources: AP Photo (left); Reuters (right)]

President Obama has threatened to veto the measure if passes the House and Senate. 

"[T]he bill would allow broad sharing of information with governmental entities without establishing requirements for both industry and the Government to minimize and protect personally identifiable information," he complains in a letter, "[It] lacks sufficient limitations on the sharing of personally identifiable information between private entities and does not contain adequate oversight or accountability measures necessary to ensure that the data is used only for appropriate purposes."

One controversial aspect of the bill is that it would grant corporations who share personally identifiable information wtih the government immunity from lawsuits.

But where Rep. Paul and the POTUS may diverge in their criticisms is in their opinion of what to do.  Rep. Paul would like to see the measure scrapped entirely.  By contrast President Obama is lobbying for the removal of the corporate immunity provision.  But he's also pushing for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to oversee the program, potentially handing it a host of private personal information on U.S. citizens -- a idea which would surely make Rep. Paul cringe.

Homeland Security
President Obama wants to change the bill to pass the info through the Department of Homeland Security, which could lead to even worse privacy concerns [Image Source: CyTalk]

While some call the bill "worse than SOPA", the President's proposed changes could in theory make it more Orwellian in some ways, even as he removes other unpopular measures.  In that regard it's hard to separate the fact from political rhetoric and see who -- if anyone -- is interested in protecting the privacy of the American people.

Sources: The White House [PDF], The Guardian (Ron Paul comments)



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