The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, H.R. 624, a sweeping cybersecurity bill known as CISPA, passed the House of Representatives Thursday in a 288 to 127 vote, with 18 abstaining.
The bill is designed to allow the government to share classified "cyber threat information" with companies. Bill sponsor Mike Rogers, R-Mich., says that billions of dollars are lost by American corporations because their patents are stolen by hackers in other countries.
The bill also would allow companies to pass information about cyber threats to the government, a provision that many privacy groups have said could allow the government to learn too much about private citizens.
Rogers said the bill was a chance "to take a shot across China's bow."
"This protects privacy, it protects civil liberty," he said in support of the bill. "This is the answer to empower cyber information sharing."
On the House floor, minority leader Nancy Pelosi said that while Congress needs to do something about cybersecurity, she declined to support the bill because it failed to address privacy concerns.
The bill allows companies "to ship the whole kit and caboodle" of personal information to the government. Information that does not relate directly to a cyber threat, she said, "is none of the government's business."
"I am disappointed, however, we did not address the concerns of the White House about personal information. It offers no policies and did not allow any amendments and no real solutions to uphold Americans' right to privacy," she said.
Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, used his time to urge the House to pass the bill, comparing the threat of a cyber attack to that of terrorists.
"This is an American issue. With all due respect, this does provide balance between security and civil liberties ... [the United States' cyber infrastructure] is already under attack from countries like Iran and Russia," he said. "I think if anything, the recent events in Boston demonstrate that we have to come together to get this done in name. … In the case of Boston they were real bombs. In this case they're digital bombs."
Last year, CISPA passed the House but died in the Senate due to concerns about citizens' private information being shared with the federal government. The bill was reintroduced by Rogers in February with the promise of addressing privacy concerns, but more specific language has apparently not been enough for the Obama administration, which threatened earlier this week to veto the bill without significant revisions.
"The administration still seeks additional improvements and if the bill, as currently drafted, were presented to the president, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill," the White House said in a statement released Monday.