With Americans increasingly concerned about privacy and government use of personal information, the House adopted by a vote of 415-0 an amendment offered by Congressman Jared Polis to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (H.R. 3523) that would restrict federal government access to library records, tax returns, and health records if the bill becomes law. Similar protections were included under the Patriot Act but were omitted from H.R. 3523.
"As a tech entrepreneur, I know that startup tech companies can't get off the ground if they're not able to protect their networks," said Polis, "but that doesn't mean we should give up all our privacy rights and liberties. We shouldn't set up a false choice between security and liberty. If we're thoughtful about how we approach this legislation we can keep our most sensitive private information out of the hands of the government while ensuring that networks are secure."
While the amendment improved the bill, Polis opposed H.R. 3523 because it would continue to allow companies to share personal information with the federal government, which could then use that information without any meaningful oversight. The bill passed by a vote of 248-168.
H.R. 3523 would allow the private sector to share their customers' private information directly with the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, including the NSA. In addition, the bill allows the government broad discretion in how it can use this private information and provides no judicial oversight or allow for Freedom of Information requests.
"If this bill is enacted," Polis added, "there is nothing to stop companies from sharing their customers' private information with every branch of the government, including the military. Allowing the military to spy on American citizens, on American soil, goes against every principle this nation stands for."
The Polis amendment was sponsored by Republicans Justin Amash of Michigan, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, Ron Paul of Texas, and Democrat Jerry Nadler of New York.