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Following Sony hacks, Congress revisits much-maligned spying bill

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Politicians know that the best time to clamp down on security is following an attack on a nation's interests, since people are thinking more about safety than civil liberties. This time, the impetus is the recent Sony attacks, which US Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D) is using to re-introduce a bill that was widely disliked by privacy advocates. Called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), it encourages the sharing of internet data between US national security agencies and tech companies like Google and Facebook. Referring to the hacks -- allegedly by North Korea -- Ruppersberger said "the reason I'm putting the bill in now is I want to keep the momentum going on what's happening out there in the world."

The act was initially passed by Congress in April 2013, but was eventually quashed by the Senate, which refused to vote on it without an extensive reworking. The White House was also never a fan of CISPA, saying at the time that it "fails to provide (critical infrastructure protection) without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality and civil liberties safeguards." Privacy groups saw it as justification for intrusive web spying and possibly as a trojan horse for a new version of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), an anti-copyright bill that was widely opposed by Microsoft, Google and others.

CISPA fails to provide critical infrastructure protection without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality and civil liberties safeguards.

However, most tech companies looked favorably on CISPA, despite a petition against it signed by over 800,000 people. Ruppersberger is hoping to find bipartisan support on the bill, which may be easier now that the Senate has changed hands. Given the White House's previous stand, however, it seems likely to be vetoed without considerable changes.

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