DHS Lobbying for Passage of CISA; Cotton Calls for Expanded Data Sharing

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are lobbying the Senate to pass the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA), seeing it as a sure way to get their hands on critical customer data.


During his keynote address at an event sponsored by the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., entitled “Big Data, Bad Actors Conference,” DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Oct. 22 that the purported cybersecurity bill would assist the government in obtaining critical data from private service providers. This cooperation, he insists, would make us all safer.


“In the cyber arena, specifically, we look to the private sector as a partner,” Mayorkas said. “We don’t actually view ourselves as leading, as opposed to viewing ourselves as co-leading with the private sector in developing an ecosystem … that raises the level of cybersecurity.”


The DHS deputy explained that although private companies control much of the traffic on the internet, Homeland Security can make better use of the data, collecting it and interpreting it in a way that will protect Americans from international bad guys.


“We can take that information, divest it of personal information and disseminate it very broadly to raise the ecosystem,” Mayorkas said.


Given its track record, however, one imagines that the divesting of personal information will be overlooked in the rush to gain control of the digital coming and going on the internet.


In a statement released on the same day as his subordinate’s speech, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson urged the Senate to pass CISA, saying it was “an opportunity we cannot afford to lose.”


Despite pressure from DHS leadership, a few senators have tried to amend the bill, protecting private data and relieving companies of liability for the misuse (by government or otherwise) of clients’ personal information stored on servers owned and operated by businesses.


One of these amendments was offered by presidential candidate and senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul. Paul’s colleagues killed the amendment, as well as another by Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that would have required the bill to expire in six years.


There is one senator, however, who offered an amendment that would have expanded the scope of mandatory private data sharing between private businesses and the federal government.


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