Facebook has been targeted by online activists for its support of a new cybersecurity bill called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), but now the world’s largest social network is striking back.
On Friday afternoon, Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy, posted a lengthy note on Facebook’s Washington DC page explaining the company’s support for the bill and countering some of the criticisms that CISPA would violate Web users’ privacy by allowing companies increased abilities to share customer information with the government.
Kaplan’s main point: CISPA as currently written doesn’t require companies to share anything with the government, but rather gives the government the ability to share information it has about hacks and other cyber attacks with private companies like Facebook.
As Kaplan wrote:
A number of bills being considered by Congress, including the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (HR 3523), would make it easier for Facebook and other companies to receive critical threat data from the U.S. government. Importantly, HR 3523 would impose no new obligations on us to share data with anyone — and ensure that if we do share data about specific cyber threats, we are able to continue to safeguard our users’ private information, just as we do today.
Kaplan also defended Facebook from the bill’s critics, saying Facebook wouldn’t use the bill to share any more information than it currently does with the government:
That said, we recognize that a number of privacy and civil liberties groups have raised concerns about the bill - in particular about provisions that enable private companies to voluntarily share cyber threat data with the government. The concern is that companies will share sensitive personal information with the government in the name of protecting cybersecurity. Facebook has no intention of doing this and it is unrelated to the things we liked about HR 3523 in the first place — the additional information it would provide us about specific cyber threats to our systems and users.
So far, Facebook users have responded largely negatively to Kaplan’s note, criticizing the company for going along with the legislation.
It should be noted, though, that Facebook is among some 800 major Web and tech companies that support the bill, including Google.
Also, Facebook and other social networks already regularly share user information with authorities when given court orders or legal requests to do so, for the purposes of investigations and other life-threatening emergencies.