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Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

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Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 06:04 PM ET, 04/25/2012

White House opposes cybersecurity bill because of privacy concerns

The White House said Wednesday it would veto a controversial cybersecurity bill if it came to the president’s desk, citing concerns that the legislation would harm consumers by stripping away privacy protections.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act will be debated on the House floor on Thursday and is expected to go up for vote on Friday. Several amendments were being considered Wednesday afternoon.

The bill is intended to allow private companies and intelligence officials to share information to ward off cyber threats. But critics of the bill say that the proposal could also be used to share too much information about users and that it protects companies that release personally identifiable information about users.

In a statement released Wednesday, its first against the bill, the Obama administration said the cybersecurity proposal would strip away electronic surveillance laws without putting in new protections for privacy.

“The bill would allow broad oversharing of information with governmental entities without establishing requirements for both industry and the government to minimize and protect personally identifiable information,” the White House said in the release.

The administration’s opposition to the bill is likely to fuel efforts by civil rights groups like the ACLU and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), which say intelligence officials would have too much power to surveil individuals.

As written, the bill could allow the National Security Agency to request information about Internet users if a contact in their e-mail lists has contacted anyone suspected of terrorist activity. That casts the net too wide, the CDT said. The bill would also allow a company to share information about its users — to the level of personally identifying users — in violation of privacy agreements with consumers.

Facebook has supported the bill, saying Web firms like it are constantly struggling to fend off data breaches. It says it wouldn’t share personal information about its users with other firms.

By  |  06:04 PM ET, 04/25/2012

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