CISPA: U.S. House members get $55M in pro-cybersecurity contributions - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Apr. 16, 2013 9:30 am

CISPA: U.S. House members get $55M in pro-cybersecurity contributions

Controversial federal legislation on cybersecurity information sharing seems to be playing itself out in Congressional donations. Pro-CISPA organizations and companies outspent CISPA opponents $55 million to $4 million in campaign contributions to House representatives from July 2010 through June 2012
This is part four of a Technically Baltimore series on CISPA. Part one, about privacy concerns, is here. Part two, about liability protections for private companies sharing data, is here. Part three comparing CISPA with the White House Executive Order on cybersecurity is here.

It’s time for the final showdown in the U.S. House on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Information Act.

Better known by its acronym, CISPA, the act seeks to promote information sharing about cyber threats and attacks between private companies and the federal government. By a count of 18 to 2, the House Intelligence Committee voted Wednesday to advance an amended CISPA bill to the floor of Congress. On Wednesday and Thursday this week, CISPA supporters will no doubt argue that the one thing the U.S. must do to save itself from falling victim to more cyber attacks is pass the legislation.

Privacy groups oppose the bill, which they argue is not protective of people’s personally identifiable information (email, location, name and much more) and grants overgenerous liability protections to private companies who share people’s personal information even if it’s discovered after the fact that said person is not a cyber threat, as parts one and two, respectively, of Technically Baltimore’s series on CISPA explain.

Supporters of the bill include big companies like Microsoft and Google, as well as major telecommunications firms, including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. And, according to the political finance research organization MapLight, those supporters contribute a significant amount of money to the campaigns of national politicians in favor of CISPA:

  • Pro-CISPA organizations and companies outspent CISPA opponents $55 million to $4 million in campaign contributions to House representatives from July 2010 through June 2012, two months after CISPA advanced through the House of Representatives the first time it was introduced, according to MapLight data compiled from OpenSecrets.org.
  • House Intelligence Committee members have benefited the most: they’ve received on average 15 times more money in campaign contributions from CISPA supporters than CISPA opponents, a fact Congressman Mike Rogers, CISPA sponsor and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, unwittingly tweeted—and then deleted from his Twitter feed—in late March.

Maryland’s own 2nd District representative Dutch Ruppersberger—ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee and co-sponsor of CISPA—has received $162,510 from interest groups that support CISPA, with $22,000 in campaign contributions from AT&T, Comcast and Verizon alone, according to the MapLight data. Those contributions were made between July 2010 and June 2012.

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MapLight's timeline of campaign contributions made by pro-CISPA organizations

MapLight’s timeline of campaign contributions made by pro-CISPA organizations

As for the amendments appended to the legislation:

  • Six amendments were added to CISPA, including one that requires the federal government to strip the personal information from the cyber threat data they receive from private companies.
  • Another prevents federal agencies for using the shared data for broad and vague “national security purposes.”

Although, two key privacy amendments were rejected by Intelligence Committee members during hearings last week, as Mashable reports:

The privacy amendments rejected would have precluded the sharing of private information with the NSA and the Department of Defense, as well as required companies to strip identifiable information from data themselves—instead of leaving that task to the government.

“The committee’s amendments do not solve core privacy problems with the bill,” said Mark M. Jaycox, policy analyst with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an e-mail. EFF is one of myriad privacy groups that have been railing against CISPA since its reintroduction in Congress in February.

Congressman Ruppersberger, in a list of CISPA “mythbusters” published Monday, maintained that the amendments added serve to create a ” ‘minimization’ of personally identifiable information.”

But Jaycox warned that the amended version of CISPA “still contains loopholes for companies to directly hand potentially sensitive and personal private information to the secretive intelligence agencies like the [National Security Agency]. It also still encourages the collection of this information by private companies—in essence furthering a private surveillance system where user data is sent straight to the government.”

The White House is still opposed to the amended CISPA bill, saying in a statement, “We do not believe these changes have addressed some outstanding fundamental priorities.”

President Barack Obama, however, has yet to issue a veto threat against CISPA, as he did when it cleared the House in April 2012.

This is part four of a Technically Baltimore series on CISPA.

  • The fifth and final part will be a Q&A with Dutch Ruppersberger, representative from Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District.
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