The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to allow businesses to share information with the federal government that could help thwart cybersecurity threats, despite concerns from privacy advocates and opposition from the White House.
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County, was approved 288-127 in the face of a veto threat from President Barack Obama.
The measure would allow Internet companies such as Google and Facebook to share data with federal agencies about potential threats. But privacy groups and some Democrats counter that the bill doesn't go far enough to protect consumers from having their private information accessed by the government.
Ruppersberger, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has said he is sensitive to such concerns.
"Our nation is one step closer to making a real difference protecting our country from a catastrophic cyberattack," he said in a statement after the vote. The legislation "recognizes that you can't have true security without privacy, and you can't have privacy without security."
The vote Thursday was a significant political victory for Ruppersberger, who worked with the Republican Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers of Michigan to rewrite the bill after privacy concerns torpedoed it last year.
That effort resulted in 92 Democrats voting with Republicans in favor of the bill — more than double the number who backed it last year. The added support gave the bill a two-thirds' majority, enough to override a presidential veto.
But the rewrite has not allayed the concerns of all critics, and the wide House majority will be moot if the Democratic-led Senate doesn't take up the bill. So far, there has been little indication it will.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, called the bill's privacy protections "insufficient."
Ruppersberger and others want Congress to act quickly on the measure to deal with increasing attacks on government, commercial and media servers.
"I am very proud that so many of my colleagues were able to look past the distortions and fear mongering about this bill," Rogers said in a statement.
He cast the measure as one that grants a "very narrow and focused authority to share cyber security threat information to keep America safe."
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