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CISPA passes House of Representatives vote

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The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has been passed by the US House of Representatives, despite the threat of a possible veto by the president.

The bill would allow the government to pass on information about hacking threats to commercial companies, and allow them to share their user's information with the government while shielding them from prosecution for doing so. Privacy campaigners and most recently the White House have come out against the bill but in the end it passed by 248 votes to 168, with a solid Republican turnout and 42 Democrats crossing the floor.

“We can’t stand by and do nothing as US companies are hemorrhaging from the cyber looting coming from nation states like China and Russia,” said the bill's sponsor Congressman Mike Rogers, who Opensecrets.org claims received over $100,000 from companies supporting the legislation. “America will be a little safer and our economy better protected from foreign cyber predators with this legislation. I commend the bipartisan effort on this bill.

Some amendments to the original bill were passed to moderate its effects. Corporate information on users can now only be shared with the government for investigations into cybersecurity, cybercrime, protecting people from "harm", stopping child exploitation, and the old favorite national security. However, this wasn't enough to satisfy privacy advocates.

"CISPA goes too far for little reason. Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity," said ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson in a statement.

All eyes are now on two competing proposals in the Senate, one sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and the other by Republican senator for Arizona and former presidential hopeful John McCain. If CISPA is tied to one of these bills and passes, then it's gut check time for the Obama White House.

On Wednesday the White House said the president's advisers would recommend vetoing the bill. Then again, the White House has promised a veto before on the National Defense Authorization Act and then chickened out at the last minute. Internet rights organizations have pledged to keep the pressure up, both on the White House and on the Senate, to kill the bill.

"We're optimistic about bringing the fight to the Senate. Once the public debate has matured we'll see a lot more resistance to this," Dan Auerbach, staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told The Register. ®

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