To mine or not to mine, that's the question for senate

The US Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (Cisa) 2015, which aims to ease restrictions on the use of data-mining and sharing of web-based data on individuals for “appropriate Federal entities” who can then share throughout the government, returns to the senate this week for the third time, potentially with a vote today (Wednesday) or tomorrow.

However, deputy secretary of The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas was reported by The Guardian as saying that some provisions of the bill “could sweep away important privacy protections” and that the proposed legislation “raises privacy and civil liberties concerns”.  Consequently there are still moves to introduce further amendments that would limit government use of any shared information to investigation and prosecution of cyber-security crimes.

Section 4 of the bill is among the most controversial elements. It says: “[a] private entity may, for cyber-security purposes, monitor A) the information systems of such a private entity; B) the information systems of another entity, upon written consent of such other entity […] and D) information that is stored on, processed by, or transiting the information systems monitored by the private entity under this paragraph.”

Data brokers such as Experian and CISA; Oracle, and Hitrust are among those lobbying for the new legislation, which would also free up Google, Facebook and Amazon among others to increase the uses of their customer data.

Supporter senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday: "I urge the senate to allow us to act and pass it this week." In contrast, The Electronic Frontier Foundation's webside says: “We're urging senators to vote against CISA. It's a flawed bill suffering from serious problems.”

The FTC has also called on Congress to consider legislation requiring data brokers to provide consumers access to data held about them, at a reasonable level of detail, and the ability to opt out of having it shared for marketing purposes, but to date has failed to introduce legislation to that effect.

Opponents of CISA – who include a coalition of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Constitution Project and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, say it would not just provide information sharers with immunity from prosecution, but also from regulatory action as participants could collect a broad range of data then share it with the government.

Reuters reports senate aides saying that the bill will pass easily once it comes up for a vote, but that it would need to conform to other contradictory legislation before being signed into law by President Obama.