CISPA: Facebook Explains Support For Controversial Cybersecurity Bill

Facebook on Friday sought to explain its support for cybersecurity legislation that has come under fire from civil liberties groups who say the bill does not protect consumers from having their private data shared with the government.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, seeks to give businesses and the federal government legal protection to share cyber threats with each other in an effort to thwart hackers. Currently, they do not share that data because the information is classified and companies fear violating anti-trust law.

Facebook supports the bill because the social networking site needs timely information about cyber threats from the U.S. government to keep the site secure and protect the data of its 845 million users, Joel Kaplan, vice president of public Policy for Facebook, said in a statement Friday.

"One challenge we and other companies have had is in our ability to share information with each other about cyber attacks," Kaplan wrote. "When one company detects an attack, sharing information about that attack promptly with other companies can help protect those other companies and their users from being victimized by the same attack. Similarly, if the government learns of an intrusion or other attack, the more it can share about that attack with private companies (and the faster it can share the information), the better the protection for users and our systems."

Privacy and civil liberties groups, led by the ACLU, have criticized the bill, saying its definition of the consumer data that can be shared with the government is overly broad. And once the data is shared, the government could use that information for other purposes -- such as investigating or prosecuting crimes -- without needing to obtain a warrant, they say. They also criticize the legislation for not requiring companies to make customer information anonymous before sharing it with the government.

Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Huffington Post the bill was "a privacy disaster" and "a new backdoor around the Fourth Amendment."

Kaplan said Facebook was taking those concerns seriously. He said CISPA would "impose no new obligations on us to share data with anyone –- and ensures that if we do share data about specific cyber threats, we are able to continue to safeguard our users’ private information, just as we do today."

Facebook's statement caps a week in which the bill's authors and supporters have defended the legislation from a growing Internet backlash. Last weekend, the hacker group Anonymous claimed credit for cyberattacks that briefly crashed the websites of the USTelecom and TechAmerica in retaliation for the trade groups' support of Rogers' cybersecurity legislation.

On Tuesday, CISPA's authors, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), held a conference call with reporters seeking to rebut criticisms that the bill does not protect consumer privacy and refute what they said were misconceptions that the bill is similar to SOPA, a controversial anti-piracy bill that was scuttled earlier this year after widespread Internet protests.

On Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee also created a Twitter account that outlines what CISPA would and would not do.

Rogers and Ruppersberger told reporters they were working with privacy and civil liberties groups to address concerns about the bill and said they were open to amending the legislation, which the House is expected to vote on during the week of April 23.