Biden Bans Rival Nations From Purchasing US Data

The Effects of Biden’s Executive Order on the Security of Privacy Protections in the United States and Implications for Data Brokers

President Joe Biden has issued an executive order authorizing the US attorney general “to prevent the large-scale transfer of Americans’ personal data to countries of concern.” According to the US Department of Justice today, those countries could include China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

Data that includes things like personal health and financial data are what the White House says it will be targeting in its effort to target data brokers. In a recent Consumer Reports study, 48,000 companies had sent data on a single user to Facebook.

Several departments will be required to roll out new protections under the order. The Department of Justice will have to come up with rules to prevent countries from exploiting personal data according to the White House. The data would include things such as personal health, finances, and other kinds of personal identifiers. The Department of Justice would have to work with the Homeland Security to set new security standards regarding data gathered through investment, vendor, and employment relationships.

Biden also ordered the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, and Veterans Affairs to ensure that Americans’ health data can’t be transferred via other routes like federal grants.

The Committee for Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector had to consider personal data threats when reviewing submarine cable licenses. The order, which would be the president’s third so far this year, has not yet been published to the Federal Register.

Foreign actors are not the only concern. The Senator cited a ban on the use of location information from data brokers, when he called on the National Security Agency to stop buying that information. The US director of national intelligence said information US intelligence agencies buy from them is as detailed as any it could have gotten “only through targeted (and predicated) collection.”

It’s unclear to what degree such a program would be effective. Most of the countries where Americans’ private data will remain legal for traffickers won’t be covered by it. It’s unclear if the government has the ability to restrict countries that are known to conduct espionage against the US and which are also a close US ally such as Israel.

The categories of information covered by the program will include health and financial data, precise geolocation information, and “certain sensitive government-related data,” among others, the officials said. The order will contain several carve-outs for certain financial transactions and activities that are “incidental” to ordinary business operations.

White House officials said the US Attorney General would consult with the heads of the Department of State and Department of Commerce to finalize a list of countries falling under the eye of the program. During Tuesday’s call, reporters were given a list of countries that included China, Cuba, and Iran.

Biden administration officials disclosed the order to reporters in advance during a Zoom call on Tuesday and briefly took questions, on the condition that they not be named or referred to by job title.

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