WASHINGTON - The head of the US spy agency that eavesdrops on electronic communications overseas sought on Monday to reassure Americans that the National Security Agency would not read their personal email if a new cybersecurity law was enacted to allow private companies to share information with the government.

The House of Representatives in April approved a bill that would allow the government and companies to share information about hacking. But the White House and key Senate Democrats back a broader approach.

Critics have raised privacy concerns about the sharing of such information, concerned it would allow the National Security Agency, which also protects government computer networks, to collect data on American communications, which is generally prohibited by law.

"The reality is we can do protection of civil liberties and privacy and cybersecurity as a nation," General Keith Alexander said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute.

But to help protect the private sector, he said it was important that the intelligence agency be able to inform them about the type of malicious software and other cyber intrusions it is seeing and hear from companies about what they see breaching the protective measures on their computer networks.

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