Senate approves controversial CISA bill in 74-21 vote

In an overwhelming number of votes, the US Senate has given the thumbs up to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, more popularly known as CISA, though it definitely has less flattering nicknames. While the bill will still have to go through a joint committee of House and Senate, the show of majority support is already quite telling. Naturally, privacy interest groups are raising their voices high in continued opposition, calling the bill a huge step backwards in the fight for privacy rights and an ineffective weapon against cybercrimes.

The recent spate of hackings and security breaches, especially against government agencies like the recent intrusion into the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), has clearly shaken the US government's confidence in its ability to protect itself from cybercrime. The CISA was penned in order to help give the government, particularly the Department of Homeland Security, a heads up on criminals by gathering user information, like messages, profiles, and whatnot. Some in Congress and privacy groups, however, claim that there is nothing in the bill that actually helps strengthen the US' cybersecurity. Instead, it just makes it easier for government to fish for private information.

Those supporting CISA say that the bill doesn't exactly force companies to share information with government agencies, but history would tell us there are dozens of way government can make that happen. What the CISA does is absolve companies of legal liability when they do share that data, akin to letting them wash their hands clean of any wrongdoing. At least in the eyes of the law.

The CISA also supposedly requires company to remove personally identifiable information from the data being submitted to the government if they know that such information is included. In effect, the burden of proof is being placed on the companies who might prefer to err on the side of just giving a raw dump of information. After all, they won't be held liable anyway.

Even more troubling, according to opponents like Sen. Ron Wyden, is that the CISA opens a direct channel for the DHS to funnel gathered information to other bodies like the FBI and most especially the NSA, the very agency that has been revealed to have mishandled private information.

VIA: Ars Technica