Sens. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have proposed an amendment to protect Internet users’ data from unrestricted government access.

The Senate has one week left to decide not only what the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 will look like, but also whether it will pass at all. A cacophony conflicting advocacy groups and senators are sounding off on the bill.

But for privacy advocates, there’s only one real issue at stake here: an amendment, introduced by unlikely bedfellows Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), that would strike a section of the Cybersecurity Act that’s remarkably reminiscent of the despised Cyber Intelligence Security Protection Act (CISPA). Without this amendment, the Cybersecurity Act would give Internet companies broader powers to, in the interest of preventing a cyber attack on American infrastructure, pass private user information to government agencies.

It’s very easy to imagine this amendment getting lost in the shuffle. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who introduced the Cybersecurity Act, said his fellow senators have filed more than 70 amendments to the bill. John McCain (R-AZ) wants to make it more like his own, competing cybersecurity bill, the Secure IT Act. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) wants to amend it to increase gun control. And Mitch McConnell (R-KY) brazenly tried to add an amendment to make the bill also repeal Obamacare.

To that end, a number of activist groups, including the Center of Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, and Free Press (which introduced the Declaration of Internet Freedom to the world) are encouraging people to—what else?—call their own senators to support the Franken-Paul amendment. The EFF even released a handy video abbreviating the issue:

Whatever will become of this bill, it’s happening soon. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lieberman’s partner in introducing the Cybersecurity Act to the Senate, said that if the Senate can’t reach an agreement in the next few days, she would stop trying to please everyone and simply go through and accept or reject each amendment.

“Obviously it would be better if we could come up with a compromise, but if we can’t, I see no reason why we shouldn’t just proceed to work through the amendments in normal order,” she said. “I just think it’s irresponsible if we do not pass a bill.”

Screengrab via Wikimedia Commons

How to help stop CISPA
Opposition to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is starting to build online, thanks to a petition with nearly 600,000 signatures.  
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