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U.S. senators push ahead with cybersecurity legislation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to consider a bill next week aimed at encouraging companies to exchange information on hacking attempts and cybersecurity threats with the government, senators said on Tuesday as they released a draft of the legislation.

Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, spent more than a month smoothing out disagreements that have thwarted passage of such legislation in the past.

Although the politically polarized Congress has just over seven weeks left to pass new laws, the bill's authors have expressed optimism about passing it this year. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in May also told the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit that he expected Congress to agree on cyber legislation this summer. [ID:nL1N0NZ1TI]

U.S. lawmakers have been considering legislation to help private companies better communicate about security breaches and cyber threats with the government and each other, but spats over liability and privacy protections have thwarted passage of comprehensive cyber security bills thus far.

The bill by Feinstein and Chambliss would offer companies liability protections for monitoring their networks for hacking attempts and for sharing cyberdata with the government through the Department of Homeland Security, which would immediately disseminate the information to relevant federal agencies.

The legislation would also require companies to remove personally identifiable information before sharing cyber data.

The U.S. attorney general would establish procedures to limit the government's use of cyber data, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and federal inspectors general would monitor application of the law.

Chambliss earlier this month said he was confident he and Feinstein could "pretty quickly" combine their bill with the one passed last year in the House of Representatives, which he said differed from the Senate bill on liability protections offered to companies.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives last year for the second time passed legislation addressing cyber information sharing, but efforts fizzled in the Senate, where many Democrats had sought a broader bill.

Privacy advocates have opposed giving companies liability protections, worried about abuses of consumer data both by the private sector and the government.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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