(Cyberwar.news) The Cybersecurity Act of 2015 signed into law by President Obama earlier in December is aimed at ramping up cooperation between private tech firms and the federal government to ward of threats, but critics think it just created a new opportunity for expanding government spying.
As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, the new law is the result of years of debate between government and the private sector about how best to cooperate to improve cybersecurity. It’s passage comes following more than a decade of cyber theft involving both corporate and government systems and resulting in incalculable losses of data. It also comes amid new concerns over terrorism and, in particular, how to identify and track terrorists who often use encryption to hide their online planning activities.
The law was signed as part of a $1.1 trillion omnibus package that aimed to increase the sharing and exchange of data between Uncle Sam’s various intelligence and law enforcement agencies and technology companies, but critics say the measure essentially resurrects some of the worst parts of the Patriot Act and will serve as another broad government spy program, as well as be a detriment to cybersecurity.
Prior to passage of the bill the Electronic Freedom Foundation, a non-profit group that focuses on enhancing privacy in the electronic age, launched a petition campaign against the measure, calling it a “privacy invasive surveillance bill that must be stopped.”
Formerly known as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, critics panned the legislation as a measure that would dwarf previous efforts by the federal government to collect personal data on nearly all Americans. It’s not yet known how the new legislation will be put into practice, the Christian Science Monitor noted.
However, as with the earlier CISA bill, the new legislation will, according to CSM “give liability protection to companies that share cyberthreat information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including details on data on breaches, phishing attacks, and malware downloads. The law also calls upon DHS to automate data sharing with other federal government agencies and scrub any personal information included that’s not relevant to cybersecurity.”
The problem, as NaturalNews reported in July, is that the so-called “cyberthreat information” is an overly broad definition that could include the contents of emails, IP addresses, passwords and so forth. And again, companies sharing the information would be given immunity from prosecution for violating constitutional due process and court ordered warrant protections.
“It’s not narrowly tailored to the purposes of the bill,” Robyn Greene, legal counsel at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, told CSM. “It goes far beyond cybersecurity.”
Other cyber analysts, however, said the new measure does not open the door for unlimited government spying.
“You can’t just willy-nilly share personal data,” Matthew Eggers, senior director for national security and emergency preparedness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the CSM.
The chamber is part of “the Protecting America’s Cyber Networks Coalition, which includes dozens of industry groups such as the American Bankers Association and the United States Telecom Association,” CSM reported.
Earlier congressional efforts to pass a cyber-sharing bill were hampered by government spying revelations disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
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