The U.S. House of Representatives passed the CISPA cybersecurity bill today, despite protests by civil liberties groups who point out that it puts Americans' online privacy at risk.
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which encourages Internet companies to voluntarily provide private customer data to the U.S. Government, was approved by the Republican-led House by a vote of 248-168. Politico reports that while the vote went primarily along party lines, 42 Democrats voted for the bill and 28 Republicans voted against it.
The bill will now return to the Senate for another vote.
Opponents of the bill expressed grave concerns about the effect it will have on civil liberties. CISPA would "waive every single privacy law ever enacted in the name of cybersecurity," said Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D), according to CNET News.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), member of the House Intelligence Committee, voted against the bill after several amendments protecting customer privacy were rejected. According to Schiff, he could not support the bill "due to my concerns about civil liberties and the privacy of Americans."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) defended the bill, claiming it was necessary "to prepare for countries like Iran and North Korea so that they don’t do something catastrophic to our networks here in America.”
Wired.com reports that CISPA has also received support from many major technology companies, including Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, Verizon and Oracle.
A coalition of privacy advocates, led by the American Civil Liberties Union and former Republican Rep. Bob Barr, lambasted the bill's passage, according to USA Today. "Once in government hands, this information can be used for undefined 'national security' purposes unrelated to cybersecurity," the group said in a statement.
Republican Congressman Joe Barton also spoke out against the bill. "Until we protect the privacy rights of our citizens, the solution is worse than the problem," he stated.
Unfortunately, as the Digital Journal reported earlier this week, a former National Security Agency (NSA) official recently admitted that the agency already collects most emails sent in the U.S. The CISPA bill attempts to legitimize these illegal activities by codifying them into law and protecting internet service providers from future lawsuits.
While the Obama Administration has voiced its opposition to the bill and officially advised President Obama to veto it, recent history indicates that such statements hold little value. In December 2011, the White House recommended that Obama to veto the National Defense Authorization act, which authorizes the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without charges or trial, but despite these concerns, Obama signed the controversial bill into law on New Year's Eve.