Bipartisan bill targets data flows to American adversaries

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A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday unveiled legislation aimed at restricting the ability of foreign adversaries to purchase data about American citizens.

The Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Surveillance Act would direct the Commerce Secretary to identify kinds of personal data that could harm national security if exported.

The agency would then determine which countries are low risk and which are high risk.

Low-risk countries would be allowed to import data without restrictions, while high-risk ones would see exports of data be presumptively denied. All other countries would require license for bulk exports of data identified as potentially harmful.

“Right now it’s perfectly legal for a company in China to buy huge databases of sensitive information from data brokers about the movements or health records of millions of Americans, and then share that information with the Chinese government,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of four lawmakers behind the bill said in a statement. “That’s a huge problem for our country’s security.”

The legislation is modeled after a draft bill that Wyden released last year.

The text of the legislation does not identify any specific country that would have data flows blocked, but it’s safe to assume China would be on the list. 

The legislation includes set of factors to consider when identifying high-risk countries including whether their governments have conducted hostile intelligence operations against the U.S. and domestic policies on compelling individuals to turn over personal data.

Wyden was joined by Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in introducing the bill.

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