House defies Obama to pass CISPA cybersecurity bill

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The House of Representatives has passed the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), despite strongly-worded objections and a threat of a veto from the White House.

The Republican-controlled chamber passed the act by 248 to 162, although it's likely to face a tougher rise in the Senate.

The bill gives the government permission to access internet users' private data when it believes there's a cyber threat. It also gives companies the authority to share that information with the National Security Agency or other units of the Department of Defense.

Before its passage, amendments were made limiting the bill's scope to the protection of national security, cyber-security crimes, protection of individuals from death or serious bodily harm and the protection of minors from child pornography.

The bill was supported by Facebook, Intel, Microsoft, AT&T and Verizon. However, it's received widespread condenmation from privacy groups, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation vowing to carry on fighting as the bill moves to the Senate.

"As the Senate takes up the issue of cybersecurity in the coming weeks, civil liberties will be a central issue," says EFF senior staff attorney Lee Tien.

"We must do everything within our power to safeguard the privacy rights of individual internet users and ensure that Congress does not sacrifice those rights in a rush to pass vaguely-worded cybersecurity bills."

And, says Michelle Richardson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel, "As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back."