Cybersecurity Amendment Approved by House

Legislation by must-pass appropriations bill rider continued Thursday with an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that would block funding of any government program to build or encourage cybersecurity back doors.

According to the office of Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the House passed an amendment she co-sponsored to the 2016 Department of Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 2685) that would close two surveillance "loopholes."

The House and Senate have already passed the USA Freedom Act, which limits, some say ends, indiscriminate bulk collection of data by the NSA, but Lofgren suggested more was needed.

“This amendment is the most meaningful step Congress can take to end warrantless bulk collection of US persons' communications and data,” said Lofgren. “We know that mass surveillance of Americans, as reported in the news, has taken place under the FISA Section 702 authority. This vote shows once again that the House is committed to upholding the Constitution and protecting Americans from warrantless invasions of their privacy. Enacting this amendment into law will benefit our economy, protect our competitiveness abroad, and make significant strides in rebuilding the public's trust.”

The bill would prevent funding of government efforts to encourage individuals or companies to build encryption "back doors" into products or services to allow the government to more easily surveil them.

It would also close a "loophole" that allows intelligence agencies to collect e-mails, photos and text messages so long as the data at some point crosses the U.S. border, even when that means U.S. corporate or private servers off shore.

An identical amendment was passed on the same bill in the House last year, but did not make it into the final omnibus spending bill in December, Lofgren's office pointed out.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.