The US Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing Act (CISA) has been passed in the US Senate by 74 votes to 21, despite widespread opposition from technology firms and civil liberties campaigners.
The controversial bill, which will now progress to the House of Representatives, was swept in with an overwhelming majority after shunning five pro-privacy amendments put forward by senators before the vote.
If passed into law, the legislation will increase threat intelligence sharing between federal agencies, law enforcement and cyber spooks in the US, while offering legal protection for private firms handing over sensitive user data to the government.
The outcome of the vote is likely to have been influenced by a number of high-level security breaches in the US, including at Target, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and United Airlines, which all resulted in the loss of sensitive, and in some cases federal, information.
However, opponents to CISA maintain that the bill is not fit for purpose. Prior to the final Senate vote, a number of major technology companies, including Apple, Google and Microsoft, banded together to voice privacy concerns over being forced to hand over sensitive customer data to the US government.
An Apple spokesperson said before the vote: "We don't support the current CISA proposal. The trust of our customers means everything to us and we don't believe security should come at the expense of their privacy."
Interestingly, even the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appeared to be in opposition to the bill at one point. DHS deputy secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said sending threat data through multiple agencies will increase the complexity of analysing the mass of information and could actually make it harder to fight cybercrime.
Democrat Bernie Sanders was the only presidential candidate to oppose CISA, while former NSA contractor Edward Snowden commented on Twitter: "A vote for #CISA is a vote against the internet."
Campaign group Fight for the Future, which urged supporters to lobby against CISA before the Senate vote, said that it will continue to oppose the bill.
"Every senator who voted for CISA has voted for a world without freedom of expression, a world without true democracy, a world without basic human rights," said Fight for the Future director Evan Greer.
"By supporting a bill that has been resoundingly rejected by security experts, tech companies and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum, these politicians have highlighted the brokenness of our political system and exposed the reality that Congress is one of the internet's greatest foes.
"If President Obama doesn't veto this bill, he'll be showing that his administration never cared about the open internet, despite his posturing on net neutrality."
This vote will go down as the moment Congress codified the US government’s unconstitutional spying. A sad day for the Internet. #StopCISA— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) October 27, 2015
Mark Jaycox, legislative analyst at the Electronic Freedom Foundation, voiced his frustration after the vote, describing the bill as "fundamentally flawed".
"The bill now moves to a conference committee despite its inability to address problems that caused recent highly publicised computer data breaches, like unencrypted files, poor computer architecture, un-updated servers, and employees or contractors clicking malware links," he said.
"The passage of CISA reflects the misunderstanding many lawmakers have about technology and security. With security breaches like T-Mobile, Target and OPM becoming the norm, Congress knows it needs to do something about cyber security. It chose to do the wrong thing."
A number of trade associations, and firms including Wikipedia, Reddit, Dropbox and Twitter, all said publicly in the run up to the vote that they could not support the bill in its current form.
Yet it wasn't only tech firms in opposition to CISA. The Centre for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School brought together over 60 technologists, academics and network security professionals in April that opposed the law.
The group said in a joint letter signed by notable industry voices such as Jacob Appelbaum from the Tor Project and cryptography expert Bruce Schneier, that "waiving privacy rights will not make security sharing better".
Mike Weston, chief executive at data science firm Profusion, pointed out that the CISA ruling will make it "significantly harder" for the US and Europe to agree on a replacement for the recently collapsed Safe Harbour provisions.
"Without assurances that European citizens' personal data is protected, it's hard to see how such an agreement might be reached, putting the transatlantic digital economy at risk of stuttering or worse," he said after the vote.
"I think the biggest stumbling block with the current data regulatory climate is that, while US citizens are afforded some slight protection via the USA Freedom Act, no protection is currently applied to citizens of other nations."
Yet in the face of this mass opposition, the Obama administration has indicated strongly that it is in support of CISA and will back the bill should it reach the president's desk.
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