The House of Representatives passed legislation protecting US businesses and agencies from cyber-attacks, a measure that critics say erodes civil liberties by allowing firms to onpass private data.
The Republican-controlled chamber defied a veto threat by the White House to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in a 248-162 vote.
Its fate is less assured in the Democratically controlled Senate, but supporters like House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) said it was vital to shore up computer systems woefully vulnerable to outside attack.
Reaction to the bill, which would allow private companies to exchange confidential personal information with the federal government, was mixed.
CISPA is reportedly endorsed by Facebook and Microsoft as well as communication giants Verizon and AT&T.
But President Barack Obama’s White House said the bill “lacks sufficient limitations on the sharing of personally identifiable information between private entities and does not contain adequate oversight or accountability measures necessary to ensure that the data is used only for appropriate purposes.”
Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) voted no because the bill “does not protect the privacy of the individual American citizen,” and erosions of such civil liberties are “a greater threat to democracy and liberty than the cyber threat is to America.”
Digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation said such “vaguely-worded cybersecurity bills” effectively allow companies to bypass existing law, spy on communications and pass sensitive personal data to the government.
Members of the online “hacktivist” group took to Twitter to voice opposition to the bill.