WASHINGTON — The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission issued a joint antitrust policy statement on Thursday to let businesses know firms will not run afoul of antitrust laws if they share information with one another on cybersecurity threats.
The statement comes on the heels of heightened Congressional scrutiny over the private sector’s data security systems and breach notification standards in the wake of a string of major security breaches, including at Target Corp. and Neiman Marcus Group, that potentially compromised the sensitive financial information of millions of consumers.
“Some companies have told us that concerns about antitrust liability has been a barrier to being able to openly share cyber-threat information with each other,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. “This guidance responds to those concerns, lets everyone know that antitrust concerns should not get in the way of sharing cybersecurity information and signals our continued commitment to expanding the sharing of cybersecurity information.”
The Justice Department’s antitrust division issued specific guidance on information sharing in 2000 in a business review letter to Electric Power Research Institute Inc. It confirmed at the time that it would not take action against the company’s proposal to exchange certain cybersecurity information, including “actual real-time cyber threat and attack information” with another organization.
“In that matter, the division concluded that as long as the information exchanged was limited to physical and cybersecurity issues, and avoided delving into antitrust-sensitive issues such as price, purchasing and future product innovation, we saw no issue from an antitrust perspective,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer. “Today’s statement confirms that the legal analysis in that business review letter remains the current enforcement policy of the United States antitrust enforcement agencies. And we stand ready to engage with the business community going forward to make sure they can continue to cooperate to protect our nation’s security and the interests of its consumers.”