Critics of cyber security bill raise privacy concerns, Web sites go dark in protest

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A bill that some have said would let private businesses share our emails, social media messages and private information with the U.S. government without a warrant, would kill online privacy, critics of the bill argued on Monday.

More than 400 Web sites went dark throughout the day in protest of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA.

CISPA allows private companies to voluntarily share the private information of individuals with the government in the investigations of cyber attacks.

Supporters of the bill in Congress said the legislation protects and defends national security.

Its critics disagreed.

"I'm totally against anything that goes against [or] starts invading your privacy more or giving up your personal information. I'm really dead against all that kind of stuff. I'm not a fan of it," said Vincent Favata, a Highland Beach resident.

To stop a cyber attack, for example, a private company such as bank or a telephone company could voluntarily share the private information of an individual with the government.

It could also counter a cyber attack with an attack of its own.

"In a lot of ways, we need something like this in order to try to stop some of this cyber security and hacking issues that are becoming a significant threat both to businesses and to the government," said Timothy Gilbert, a professor at Northwood University.

Still, the American Civil Liberties Union raised serious concerns about the bill and called it fundamentally flawed.

The ACLU, in a letter to members of Congress, said intensely private information could end up in the hands of the government.

"It just gets worse and worse and worse and you have no privacy whatsoever," Favata said. "What are they going to do next? Start to be able to come into your house? I mean, where does this all lead to?"

The U.S. House voted in favor of the bill last week.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on it as early as this week.

President Barack Obama has said he would veto CISPA if it was passed.

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