A cybersecurity bill aimed at thwarting huge hack attacks was slipped at the last minute into a massive $1.1 trillion federal spending bill that Congress is poised to pass this week.
Supporters said Wednesday the bill will increase the sharing of cyber threat information between U.S. companies and the government to help keep thieves and foreign spies from stealing Americans’ personal data. But critics said lawmakers have stripped the bill of strong privacy protections and warn that it will lead to more government surveillance of U.S. citizens.
“It’s a disingenuous attempt to quietly expand the U.S. government’s surveillance programs,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, a non-profit group that advocates for the rights of Internet users.”It will inevitably lead to law enforcement agencies using the data they collect from companies through this program to investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate more people, deepening injustices in our society while failing to improve security.”
The Financial Services Roundtable said the cybersecurity bill, which Congress has been trying to pass for three years, is a crucial step forward in protecting American consumers and businesses from devastating cyber attacks.
“This cyber bill is a ‘team America’ approach that will significantly improve efforts to fight cyber criminals and better protect consumer data and intellectual property,” said FSR President and CEO Tim Pawlenty.
Earlier this year, Congress passed three different, bipartisan versions of cybersecurity information-sharing legislation. Those three bills were merged and inserted late Tuesday night into the big spending bill, which would fund federal agencies through September 2016.
Congress has been under pressure to act in the wake of high-profile hacks of U.S. companies and the federal government, including the massive attack on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that compromised the personal data of more than 21 million federal workers and the breach of the Internal Revenue Service, which allowed hackers to gain access to the records of about 334,000 taxpayers.
Consumers also had their data compromised in cyber attacks against private companies, including Home Depot, JPMorgan Chase, Target, T-Mobile and Anthem health insurance.