US To Limit Sale Of Personal Data To Foreign Adversaries

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AFP

Washington: President Joe Biden is set to issue an executive order Wednesday aimed at limiting the flow of sensitive US personal data abroad due to concerns of misuse by countries including China.

Biden will direct the Justice Department to issue rules protecting Americans' information such as genetic, biometric and geolocation data from "access and exploitation by countries of concern," said the White House.

These countries could include China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.

"The sale of Americans' data raises significant privacy, counterintelligence, blackmail risks and other national security risks -- especially for those in the military or national security community," the White House said.

It added that countries of concern could also seek to collect information on activists, journalists, dissidents and political figures to intimidate opponents and curb dissent.

Biden will direct the Justice Department to work with Homeland Security as well in preventing foreign adversaries from accessing citizens' data through commercial means, including data available via investment and employment ties.

But these moves should not stop the flow of information needed for financial services activities or aim to decouple US economic, scientific and trade relationships with other countries, the White House said.

'Substantial uncertainty'

"Hostile foreign powers are weaponizing bulk data and the power of artificial intelligence to target Americans," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen in a separate statement.

Olsen, of the department's national security division, added that the announcement "fills a key gap in our national security authorities."

But The Software Alliance (BSA), a lobby for major data cloud companies, warned that the executive order "may produce significant unintended consequences," to the extent that it covers a wide range of legitimate commercial and research activity.

"Policymakers worldwide should exercise caution before introducing restrictions that could have a wide-ranging impact across different industries," said the grouping's senior vice president of global policy, Aaron Cooper.

The government will likely green-light some categories of data for export while others require specific permission, said William Reinsch of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

This will "inevitably leave large gray areas" requiring companies to ask the Justice Department if a specific transaction is acceptable, he told AFP.

"It also means substantial uncertainty" for large companies with operations abroad requiring the movement of data, not just data brokers who appear to be the target, Reinsch said.

The executive order on data transfers is the latest in a series of controls targeting tech sectors.

Last August, Biden issued an executive order aimed at restricting US investments in sensitive high-tech areas in China such as quantum computing.

Washington has also unveiled restrictions on the export of advanced chips to China, including those used in the development of artificial intelligence.


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