Facebook weighs in on cybersecurity legislation

April 13, 2012

Facebook has added its voice to the debate over the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), saying it supports aspects of the legislation, but wants to work with lawmakers to address privacy concerns about the bill.

In a company blog post, Facebook’s vice president of public policy, Joel Kaplan first outlined what Facebook supports about the bill.

“A number of bills being considered by Congress, including the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (HR 3523), would make it easier for Facebook and other companies to receive critical threat data from the U.S. government,” Kaplan wrote. “Importantly, HR 3523 would impose no new obligations on us to share data with anyone — and ensures that if we do share data about specific cyber threats, we are able to continue to safeguard our users’ private information, just as we do today.”

CISPA is designed to make it easy for the government to share cyber threat information with private companies and vice versa. But groups such as the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation worry that the bill’s language is overly broad.

“The idea is to facilitate detection of and defense against a serious cyber threat, but the definitions in the bill go well beyond that. The language is so broad it could be used as a blunt instrument to attack websites like The Pirate Bay or WikiLeaks,” said the EFF’s activism director Rainey Reitman and senior staff attorney Lee Tien in a post on the non-profit’s Web site. Mention of intellectual property in the bill, they say, could theoretically allow Internet service providers to “block access to websites like The Pirate Bay believed to carry infringing content, or take other measures provided they claimed it was motivated by cybersecurity concerns.”

Many of those who mobilized against anti-piracy bills earlier this year have taken up the call against CISPA because of these worries, hoping to duplicate the movement that all but killed the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act. Several of the people who commented on Facebook’s post were skeptical of the company’s intentions in supporting the bill, which they worry violates individual privacy rights.

Given the number of concerns raised about the bill, Kaplan said, Facebook would like to work with lawmakers to hammer out some of the issues in the legislation.

He wrote that Facebook has no intention of sharing sensitive personal information with the government, saying the “overriding goal of any cybersecurity bill should be to protect the security of networks and private data.”

The bill’s sponsors, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) , have said their bill is very different from SOPA and PIPA and that they are working with civil liberty and privacy groups to address concerns about the bill.

Related stories:

SOPA protests shut down Web sites

SOPA is dead, Dodd says

Wonkblog: Now that SOPA’s dead, five easy ways to reform copyright law

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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