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Facebook defends CISPA while pledging not to share more data

The proposed bill would give law enforcement new powers over the Internet. Facebook says not to worry.

One of the anti-SOPA, anti-Protect IP protests last month.
One of the anti-SOPA, anti-Protect IP protests last month. Sarah Tew/CNET

The latest Internet oversight bill coming up before Congress -- the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (H.R. 3523) -- is only just starting to get much attention. And it certainly hasn't sparked a backlash the way SOPA did.

Unlike SOPA, CISPA has the support of a range of tech companies, including Facebook, IBM, Intel, Verizon, and AT&T. As my colleague Violet Blue explained in her piece "Say 'hello' to CISCPA, it will remind you of SOPA":

CISPA's primary function is to remove legal barriers that might keep Internet companies from giving all your communication and information to the government. It allows "cyber entities" (such as Internet service providers, social networks like Facebook, and cell phone companies like AT&T) to circumvent Internet privacy laws when they're pressured by Homeland Security to hand over or shut down -- well, almost anything of yours online that the government wants, no warrant needed.

Today, Joel Kaplan, vice president of U.S. public policy for Facebook, wrote a post on Facebook telling people, in effect, not to worry. "More than 845 million people trust Facebook with their information, and maintaining that trust is at the core of everything we do," he wrote.

Kaplan wrote that while CISPA "would make it easier for Facebook and other companies to receive critical threat data from the U.S. government...[it] would impose no new obligations on us to share data with anyone -- and ensures that if we do share data about specific cyber threats, we are able to continue to safeguard our users' private information, just as we do today."

Kaplan addresses concerns raised by privacy groups that companies will share personal information with the government in the name of protecting cybersecurity.

"Facebook has no intention of doing this and it is unrelated to the things we liked about HR 3523 in the first place -- the additional information it would provide us about specific cyber threats to our systems and users," he wrote.

Kaplan said that Facebook is working with key lawmakers, as well as consumer groups, about "potential changes to the bill to address privacy concerns."

The bill's sponsors, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger, have stated publicly that they are working with privacy and civil liberties groups to address legitimate questions and concerns about how information might be shared with the government under the bill. They've made clear that the door is still open to change the bill before it comes to the House floor for consideration.

And now that Kaplan has gone public with his stance, he's certain to get plenty of suggestions from Facebook users everywhere.