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Rights Groups Slam House Passage of Privacy-Invading CISPA

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Image: Free Press

Rights groups are slamming the House passage of the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) Thursday afternoon, a bill they say "undermines the privacy of millions of Internet users."

The bill received strong Republican support with 196 in favor and 29 opposing.  But the bill also had the  support of nearly half the Democratics, with 92 supporting the measure and 98 voting against it.

As digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) describes it, CISPA "would allow companies to bypass all existing privacy law to spy on communications and pass sensitive user data to the government."

Explaining it further, Free Press' Josh Levy has written that

The new CISPA — just like the old CISPA — would protect companies like Facebook and Microsoft from legal liability when they hand over your sensitive online data to the federal government, without any regard for your privacy. The bill would permit the government — including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security — to use that information for matters that have nothing to do with cybersecurity. The whole process would, of course, take place behind closed doors, with no accountability to the public.

The ACLU is also among the 34 civil liberties organizations and 74 Internet security experts and academics ushering warnings about CISPA.

"CISPA is an extreme proposal that allows companies that hold our very sensitive information to share it with any company or government entity they choose, even directly with military agencies like the NSA, without first stripping out personally identifiable information," Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, said in a statement following the House vote.

"This bill undermines the privacy of millions of Internet users,” added Rainey Reitman, EFF Activism Director, on Thursday, and said EFF was "committed to taking this fight to the Senate."

President Obama has said he would veto the bill in its current form.


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