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Cyber security bill pits tech giants against privacy activists

SAN FRANCISCO — The escalating cyber attacks on corporate and government computers have provided a rare opportunity for bipartisan legislation to address the problem. But rather than sailing through Congress, the latest cyber security legislation is exposing a fault line in the tech industry.

On one side stand some of tech's biggest companies, such as Intel Corp., Oracle Corp. and IBM Corp., which are pressing for more government action. On the other side are thousands of smaller tech firms and privacy activists who have launched online protests to raise the alarm over a bill they say harms privacy and civil liberties.

Last year, these two camps joined forces in a powerful protest that stopped a piracy bill favored by the entertainment industry. Now they find themselves pitted against each other, trying to find a middle ground between increased security and protecting privacy.

With the bill headed toward a possible vote in Congress next week, the results of this high-tech family feud may demonstrate in stark terms whether the Internet can truly be the great political leveler when going against the more traditional methods of wielding policy influence, such as lobbying and campaign donations.

"This is sort of a 'privacy versus big corporation' moment," said Michelle Richardson, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been campaigning against the cyber security bill.

This is a striking departure from the much-publicized fight last year over the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, a bill backed by Hollywood and the recording industry. Activists launched a high-profile and sweeping online campaign against the bill. Many hailed it as evidence of the power of Internet activism.

But the truth wasn't quite so simple. In that fight, large tech companies largely aligned with those grass-roots activists, bringing their own lobbying might to bear. More...

04-13-2013 14:43