Democrats support Cispa cyber bill despite White House veto threat

US House of Representatives has passed the Cispa cyber bill aimed at helping companies and government share information on cyber threats

The US House of Representatives has passed the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa) aimed at helping companies and the government share information on cyber threats.

The move comes despite threats to veto the legislation by the US government, which wants more privacy protections despite several amendments since the bill failed to pass through Senate last year

Cispa has the support of several large technology firms, but opponents have raised concerns that the provisions of the bill could threaten the privacy of data.

They say the bill allows a wide range of data to be shared with government and a petition against the bill with 100,000 signatures was submitted to the White House in March.

A White House statement said: "The administration remains concerned that the bill does not require private entities to take reasonable steps to remove irrelevant personal information when sending cyber security data to the government or other private sector entities."

Cispa passed by 288 to 127 with 92 Democrats voted in favour, despite White House concerns.

"We have a constitutional obligation to defend this nation," said the bill's co-author, intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican.

He said cyber attacks and espionage are now the top US national security and economic threats. 

"This is the answer to empower cyber information sharing to protect this nation,” he said.

House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat said the bill does not do enough to ensure that companies strip out any personal data of US citizens when sharing cyber threat data.

In an attempt to allay concerns, House intelligence committee leaders endorsed an amendment that made the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice – agencies that are civil, not military – the clearing houses of the digital data exchange, according to the Guardian.

Commentators said the future of Cispa remains unclear in light of the fact that the White House said President Barack Obama would veto it if privacy concerns were not addressed.

The UK has avoided a potential impasse around similar legislation by setting up a voluntary partnership with industry to share information and intelligence on cyber security threats.

The Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP) delivers a key component of the UK national cyber security strategy in facilitating information-sharing on cyber threats.

The initiative – aimed at making UK businesses more secure in cyber space – follows a successful pilot scheme involving over 160 companies across five key UK sectors.

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