A controversial cybersecurity bill, known as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), passed in the Senate today 74-21. The bill gives the government greater access to your private messages.
The bill will now go to a conference committee that’s composed of the House of Representatives, which passed its own version, and the Senate, RT reports. If that’s approved, President Barack Obama will have the final vote.
CISA puts pressure on technology and manufacturing companies to send cybersecurity threats to the federal government. To be clear, there is nothing explicitly written in CISA that requires tech companies to hand over your private messages.
But opponents of CISA argue that the bill is not clear about what constitutes a cybersecurity threat. This means any kind of potential threat will be forked over to the government so that tech companies aren’t liable for obscuring a potential security breach.
The Senate rejected four amendments that were created to address privacy concerns.
“It’s widely assumed that content and private messages will be sent over to the government in order to claim the immunity,” Mark Jaycox, a legislative analyst for the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Tech Insider.
In the process, tech companies will be sending over personally identifiable information too. This means the federal government — which includes the FBI, CIA, and NSA — will collect private, unnecessary information from users.
The bill is so broad that any malware link that appears in a messaging thread could be seen as a cybersecurity threat and sent to the government, Jaycox said. This is problematic, considering malware links are accidentally sent and received frequently in group chats.
Messaging threads wouldn’t be reviewed by individuals either — an automated system would scan for anything that could potentially be malware.
“You could be discussing dinner and the company thinks that link you just sent is a virus not wanted on a network, then the company grabs it and sends it to the government,” Jaycox explained. “Almost anything under the bill could be considered a threat.”
This means any messaging platform — from iMessage to email to Facebook message — is privy to government review.
Major tech companies have taken a stand against the bill. The
Computer and Communications Industry Association, a trade group that includes Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, have voiced opposition to the bill.
Twitter and Reddit have also taken a public stance against the bill.
— reddit (@reddit) October 27, 2015
Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at his opposition to the bill, claiming at The Wall Street Journal’s WSJD Live conference last week that no one should have to choose between privacy and security.
“No one should have to decide privacy or security,” he said. “We should be smart enough to do both.”
— CCIA (@ccianet) October 15, 2015
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