US lawmakers are debating a cyber security bill which has been widely condemned by privacy advocates.
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) would provide the groundwork for the sharing of data between government agencies and private firms, including internet service providers and social networking companies.
Consumer advocates have condemned CISPA, which is ostensibly concerned with cyber security issues, as a rehash of the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) suggested that if passed, the legislation would allow law enforcement to spy on user activity and intercept communications for infractions as minor as file-sharing.
"The stated definition of 'cybersecurity purpose' is so broad that it leaves the door open to censor any speech that a company believes would degrade the network," the EFF said.
"Parts of the proposed legislation specifically state that cyber security purpose includes protecting against the theft or misappropriation of private or government information' including intellectual property."
Unlike the roundly-criticised SOPA law, CISPA has gained support from a number of technology firms and service providers, most notably Facebook.
In a statement issued in response to criticism of its support for CISPA, the company vowed not to share user information unless the data had been requested by law enforcement for security purposes.
"The overriding goal of any cyber security bill should be to protect the security of networks and private data, and we take any concerns about how legislation might negatively impact internet users’ privacy seriously," Facebook vice president of US public policy Joel Kaplan said.
"As a result, we’ve been engaging directly with key lawmakers as well as industry and consumer groups about potential changes to the bill to help address privacy concerns."
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