(Reuters) – A two-part group of US senators plans to introduce legislation on Thursday that would give the Biden administration the power to block the export of US personal data to countries such as China, which they say pose national security risks.
The bill, backed by Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, the top Republican in the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, aims to protect Americans’ sensitive personal information from being sold or transferred to foreign high-risk countries.
“Right now, it is 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,”; Senator Wyden said in a statement announcing the legislation. “It is a major problem for our country’s security.”
The bill, which is based on a draft discussion released by Senator Wyden last year, would lead the Secretary of Commerce to identify categories of personal data that, if exported, could harm U.S. national security.
If the bill is approved, the bill would also call on the Ministry of Commerce to require mass export licenses of the identified categories of personal data to other countries, and deny exports to high-risk countries. Data exports to low-risk countries would be unlimited, according to a summary of the bill.
Although the bill does not specifically list China as a high-risk country, it is an intended goal according to a Senator Wyden assistant. The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately comment.
Other co-sponsors include Senators Cynthia Lummis, Sheldon Whitehouse and Bill Hagerty.
The move comes in the midst of increased scrutiny of US data flows to China. Last month, Reuters reported that the Biden administration had issued an executive order that would give the Justice Department major powers to stop foreign opponents such as China from accessing Americans’ personal data.