Bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate on June 23 aims to create new rules for bulk exports of U.S. citizens’ personal data that would help protect that data from use by hostile foreign governments.

“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. That’s a huge problem for our country’s security,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., one of the bill’s sponsors, said.

The Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Surveillance Act would do the following:

  • Direct the Secretary of Commerce to identify categories of personal data that could harm U.S. national security;
  • Direct Commerce to compile a list of low-risk countries where exports will be unrestricted and require for bulk exports identified categories of personal data;
  • Exempt from new export rules data encrypted with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)-approved technology;
  • Ensure export rules don’t apply to journalism and other First Amendment protected speech; and
  • Apply export control penalties to senior executives who knew or should have known that their employees were directed to illegally export personal data.

Along with Sen. Wyden, the legislation is sponsored by Sens. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn.

“Our bipartisan legislation sets common-sense guardrails to block bulk exports of private, sensitive information from going to high-risk foreign nations and protect the safety of Americans against foreign criminals and spies,” said Sen. Wyden.

“Data brokers doling out Americans’ personal information to companies in foreign nations can be more than a violation of privacy – it can be a serious national security threat. We need sensible rules of the road to prevent our personal data from falling into the wrong hands,” Sen. Whitehouse said.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.