The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act — a bill that critics have warned is a surveillance measure in disguise — is officially on the books.
The measure, now known as the “Cybersecurity Act of 2015” — is a culmination of several years of effort to pass a cyber bill and reconciles three different versions that passed the House and Senate earlier this year with hefty bipartisan support.
Congress added the measure to its year-end spending bill on Wednesday. On Friday, President Barack Obama signed the massive omnibus package into law before traveling with his family on their annual vacation to Hawaii.
Supporters have said the bill will help thwart cyberattacks by encouraging companies to share information about threats with the government while providing them with liability protections for not acting on information received.
But others — including several senators and technology companies, such as Apple and Yelp — have criticized the bill, citing concerns about privacy and transparency.
In a statement, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a supporter of the bill — said the law is the first “to promote information sharing between companies and between companies and the government” and said it will provide “strong liability protections and strict privacy safeguards.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the bill “unacceptable surveillance provisions” and “a black mark” on the spending bill.
“This misguided cyber legislation does little to protect Americans’ security, and a great deal more to threaten our privacy than the flawed Senate version,” Wyden said. “Americans demand real solutions that will protect them from foreign hackers, not knee-jerk responses that allow companies to fork over huge amounts of their customers’ private data with only cursory review.”
According to Wyden, the enacted version is even more “badly flawed” than the previous versions.
“It contains substantially fewer oversight and reporting provisions than the Senate version did,” he said. “That means that violations of Americans’ privacy will be more likely to go unnoticed. And the Intelligence Authorization bill strips authority from an important, independent watchdog on government surveillance, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. This will make it easier for intelligence agencies — particularly the CIA — to refuse to cooperate with the Board’s investigations.”