US House passes corporate-backed 'cyber security' bill

Attempts by the US House of Representatives to allow their big corporate friends to use the nation’s spooks to do their dirty work could get spiked by the president.

The House passed a cybersecurity bill that it thinks would allow the government and companies to share information about hacking.

The politicians claim that it means that economic cyber spies will have a harder time stealing American business plans and research and development.

In actual fact it allows federal agencies such as the National Security Agency to share secret cyber threat information with American companies to help the private sector protect its networks.

But the law is so broad that it will allow the NSA to effectively collect data on American communications by just asking corporates to hand it over.  We guess it also means that any data which spooks pick up in their spying efforts can be handed over the corporates.

House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers said that Facebook, the US Chamber of Commerce, Boeing, AT&T and others had supported it.

The legislation allows for information from private companies to be used for intelligence and national security purposes, not just cyber security.  After all Facebook is a champion for its users’ privacy.

But the White House is not happy with the law – saying that it would override “important provisions of electronic surveillance law without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties safeguards”.

In a move which suggests that President Obama will veto the bill, the White House said that the bill would allow broad sharing of information with governmental entities without establishing requirements for both industry and the government to minimise and protect personally identifiable information.

The bill also gives big corporates immunity from privacy and antitrust lawsuits if they share threat information with the government and with corporate competitors.  As we said the law is so wide that it could be used to cover companies if it embarks on illegal wiretapping operations with US spooks.

But there are some aspects which the White House likes. It has provisions that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to direct companies maintaining critical infrastructure, such as water and power utilities, to meet new security standards.

The American Civil Liberties Union told Reuters that the bad out weighs the good in the bill. A spokesperson said that it would allow companies to share private information with the government without a warrant.