Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) led a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and introduced an amendment to the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 that would remove provisions that would override longstanding privacy protections to give Internet service providers (ISPs) and other companies new, broad power to monitor their customers' online activities and communications and take countermeasures against cybersecurity threats - even negligently - without the risk of a lawsuit or any government oversight. This power would be authorized despite the fact that ISPs and Internet companies already have the authority, bounded by privacy protections in the Wiretap Act, to monitor their systems and protect them from cyberattacks. The senators said their amendment would ensure that the bill respects the privacy and civil liberties of American consumers.
"Americans shouldn't have to worry that their Internet service providers are snooping in their e-mail or accessing the files on their computer for the wrong reasons," said Sen. Franken. "While the Cybersecurity Act does a lot to protect the privacy of American consumers, it also contains provisions that would hurt consumer privacy by allowing ISPs and other companies to monitor email and deploy countermeasures indiscriminately. What's even worse is that these companies would be immune from any lawsuit if they misuse these new powers. That's why I introduced this amendment, which would completely remove these troubling provisions and protect consumer privacy."
"I am pleased to work with my colleagues across the aisle to co-sponsor this amendment, which will help ensure that Americans' private communications are protected from eavesdropping and interference," said Sen. Paul. "This amendment will also help protect the freedom of individuals and companies to form private contracts."
"ISPs already have the authority to monitor their networks and address cyber threats," said Sen. Wyden. "The privacy protections already on the books do not impair their ability to combat those threats and I find no compelling reason to give up those individual liberties in the name of cybersecurity."
"I'm proud to sponsor this amendment that will ensure proper privacy protections for individuals and the technology industry in the Cybersecurity Act," said Sen. Schumer. "While the Cybersecurity Act provides much needed protections for critical infrastructure, we must find the right balance to preserve the economic viability of the internet - otherwise there will be no critical infrastructure to protect. With this amendment, we've found that balance."
The amendment was cosponsored by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.). It is supported by a coalition of progressive and conservative civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press and TechFreedom.
Last week, Sen. Franken delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate, in which he largely praised the Senate's Cybersecurity bill, but also announced that he would introduce an amendment to remove provisions that give Internet service providers (ISPs) and other companies new authorities to monitor and take action against the private communications of their users.