The death of the Senate's cyber security bill, one of President Obama's top national security priorities, saw a combined push by two unlikely allies: Privacy advocates and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. On Thursday, after several months of lobbying from the Obama administration, the info-security industry, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and a handful of top Democrats, the bill was blocked by a Republican-led filibuster. Its purpose was simple: establish security standards for the computer networks governing the country's critical infrastructure, but the Chamber and Fight for the Future, a privacy advocacy group that joined almost two dozen other privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, were able to convince six Democrats and a group of Republicans to oppose it.
What's unusual about this cohort is how savagely the two sides opposed each other in another legislative battle that only recently drew to close: The Stop Online Piracy Act. As CNET's Declan McCullagh noted last November, the Chamber was "even more aggressive than the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America in defending SOPA and attacking the legislation's critics," chief among those being the core privacy groups mentioned above. During that battle, Steve Tepp, an IP attorney at the Chamber ripped apart privacy advocates saying they intentionally "mislead and scare people to make their point" and discharge "hyperbole." In an irreverent blog post before Halloween, he said privacy advocates are "unpacking all their favorite ghouls and hobgoblins" and making "extreme and absurd claims." Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation accused the Chamber of "egregious" attempts to "mislead the public about the bill's true reach."
Now however, the two sides can toast each other on a united legislative success. As the Los Angeles Times' Ken Dilanian writes, the Chamber "strenuously opposed the [cyber bill], condemning it as excessive government interference in the free market and arguing that cumbersome federal regulations could hamper companies trying to defend against cyber intrusions." Even after it was watered down, the Chamber continued to oppose it. Meanwhile, Talking Points Memo's Carl Franzen covers the celebratory side of team privacy:
Fight For the Future and about two dozen other advocacy groups — including the American Civil Liberties Union, Demand Progress and the Electronic Frontier Foundation — were concerned about the ramifications that any cybsercurity “information-sharing” laws would have on individual Web user privacy.
“We’re actually quite excited,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight For the Future, which opposed the bill. “This is a victory for the Internet.” Fight for the Future and likeminded groups opposed the bill because it would have let private corporations share user information that they collect online if it was deemed pertinent to national cyber threats. Cheng noted that the defeat of the bill made for the third legislative win for Internet privacy groups this year, including SOPA and PIPA, SOPA's Senate counterpart. “If you’re going to have a piece that affects privacy in any bill or trade agreement, the Internet is going to rise up," said Cheng. And apparently, where the battle lines are drawn won't always be predictable.