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Oct 30 2015

U.S. Senate Passes CISA

Following a similar decision in the House of Representatives earlier this year, the second chamber of the U. S. Congress has approved its own version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA) with a 74:21 majority. The decision is likely to complicate negotiations about privacy-enhancing follow-up regulations to the Safe Harbor Agreement, which the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had declared invalid on October 6.

According to a press release from Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the "landmark bill" will "protect Americans' personal privacy by taking steps to stop future cyber-attacks before they happen." The general idea behind it seems to be that U.S. citizens' privacy and wealth are predominantly threatened by "foreign agents" and "criminal gangs," but not by state agencies. Further according to Burr, the central provision of CISA is that it "gives the government and U.S. companies new voluntary collaborative tools so that they can work together against hackers that have been all too successful at stealing the personal information of millions of Americans for years." CISA was co-sponsored by Burr himself and the Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Californian Democrat.

Privacy advocates and civil rights activists on the other hand strongly disagree, as do security experts who criticize the bill as being "totally ineffective" (cf. this report on Dell's Power More blog). Justin Harvey, CSO at Fidelis Cybersecurity, a firm that counts the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Commerce among its customers, went so far as to say that "[t] he way that the bill is written would give companies the ability to spy on all of their users with impunity, in order to detect if they are a cyber threat," and share the information they gather with the Department of Homeland Security (which is permitted to share it with other intelligence agencies) or opt to directly contact the NSA. On top of that, many leading tech firms and their trade groups also vocally opposed the CISA bill, but the Senate ignored their misgivings as well (see the official statements from the Computer & Communications Industry Association and the Business Software Alliance here and here). And since CISA reportedly does nothing to protect the privacy rights of customers residing abroad, several opponents have voiced concerns that the Senate decision will make it much harder to reach data sharing agreements e.g. with the European Union.

While this is not the place to give advice, we would like to support you and your customers in making informed decisions regarding privacy policies. We therefore decided to offer the full texts of CISA and the ECJ ruling for download – just click on the links below:


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