The Business Software Alliance, a group of top technology companies including Intel and Microsoft, met with Internet privacy advocacy group Center for Democracy and Technology Monday evening.
The goal: find common ground on the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, better known as (CISPA). The big question: how best to protect American networks from cyberattacks while preserving the civil liberties and privacy of Internet users?
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“All of us agree legislation is needed to promote the safety and security of the Internet, and all of us agree it is important to protect privacy,” BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman said in a statement. “Legislation to promote the kind of sharing we need certainly can be crafted in a way that safeguards people’s civil liberties.”
In a separate statement, Intel called the meeting an "important step forward for cybersecurity protection."
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"We look forward to working with stakeholders as the bill heads toward possible consideration on the floor of the House of Representatives next week to help address additional privacy implications in a way that does not unnecessarily dilute the important cybersecurity enhancing provisions," David Hoffman, director of security policy and global privacy officer at Intel, said in a blog post.
CISPA is designed to allow and encourage private business and the government to share information about cybersecurity threats with one another. Its authors, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, have stressed that the bill is intended only as a means to defend American economic interests from state-sponsored cybercrime.
However, advocacy groups such as the CDT are particularly worried about a national security clause which they say would allow the intelligence community unlimited access to individuals' emails, text messages and social media accounts.
The CDT has joined forces with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups to launch a weeklong informational campaign about CISPA which began Monday.
The BSA's statement did acknowledge that CISPA's language "could benefit from sharpening."
CISPA's authors started making changes to the bill almost immediately after it began catching flack from Internet users, technology blogs and civil liberties groups. Last Friday, the committee released an updated "discussion draft," which highlighted potential and actual changes to the bill. On Monday, another draft appeared featuring still more changes.
Susan Phalen, communications director at the House Intelligence Committee, told Mashable the discussion drafts were posted online in an ongoing effort to be transparency-minded.
Even after the changes, CISPA still includes the national security clause and other language that has civil liberties organizations in an uproar. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that's evidence that Reps. Rogers and Ruppersberger aren't listening to criticism.
"The amendments introduced don't address the civil liberties concerns that have been raised around companies monitoring our communications and handing sensitive user data to the government with no form of judicial oversight," says Rainey Reitman, activism director at the EFF.
"In fact the latest changes only give further liability exemption to companies who monitor private communications, transfer that data to the government, or act in 'good faith' in decisions made on information obtained through this legislation."
Rainey added she found it "disturbing" that CISPA is changing rapidly but the authors are still failing to address the concerns that civil liberties groups have raised about the bill.
Both Intel and Microsoft have sent letters to the House Intelligence Committee expressing their support for the controversial cybersecurity bill. On Tuesday, Rep. Rogers told The Hill that Google, while not officially in support of CISPA, has been "supportive" in trying to help lawmakers design a bill that bolsters cybersecurity while keeping Internet civil liberties intact.
CISPA has passed committee and it's expected to make it to the House floor early next week. According to Kendall Burman, senior national security fellow at the CDT, that's the "real (and maybe only) opportunity to get our message across."
Do you think lawmakers can find a way to protect networks while preserving Internet privacy? Sound off in the comments below.
This story originally published on Mashable here.