Despite fears about personal data, the US Senate Intelligence Committee approved a bill to encourage companies to exchange information with the government.
The move is supposed to help share information on hacking attempts and cybersecurity threats, the only problem is that you have to trust the US government not to misuse the situation.
Experts see the bill as the best chance for the current congress to pass some type of legislation to encourage better cooperation between the government and private companies to boost the cyber defences of critical industries.
It is a serious problem as cyber-attacks by a determined enemy could be the greatest threat to US national and economic security.
However, comprehensive cyber bills have been delayed by rows over liability and concerns about privacy. In the middle of it, came the news of the government surveillance programmes.
The bill must be approved by the full Senate and reconciled with similar legislation that passed the House of Representatives in April.
There are already signs that the measure has bipartisan support in the House. The Republican chairman and top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee issued a statement on Tuesday backing the measure and urging the full Senate to vote quickly.
Under the bill, companies and individuals can monitor their own and consenting customers’ networks for hacking and voluntarily share cyber threat data, stripped of personally identifiable information, with the government and each other for cybersecurity reasons.
In return, the US director of national intelligence to increase the amount of information the government shares with private firms and the Department of Homeland Security to set up and manage a data-sharing portal.
The bill offers liability protections to companies that appropriately monitor their networks or share cyber threat data and limit the government’s ability to use data it receives.
However, privacy advocates are worried about giving companies any form of immunity and the long history of abuse of consumer data by both the private sector and the government.