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Biden moves to stop sales of sensitive personal data to China and Russia| GuyWhoKnowsThings

President Biden will issue an executive order Wednesday to restrict the sale of sensitive U.S. data to China, Russia and four other countries, a first-of-its-kind attempt to prevent personally identifiable information from being obtained for blackmail, scams or other harm. .

The president will ask the Justice Department to draft rules restricting the sale of information about the location, health and genetics of Americans to China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, as well as any entity linked to those countries. The restrictions would also cover financial information, biometric data and other types of information that could identify individuals and sensitive government-related information.

The White House said this type of sensitive data could be used to blackmail, “especially those in the military or national security community,” and against dissidents, journalists and academics.

The new restrictions would be the first broad US ban on the sale of digital data to individual countries in an era when companies known as data brokers They gather enormous amounts of information about people, from their favorite hobbies to household income and health conditions, and then typically sell it to marketers who target them with ads.

A senior administration official said during a call with reporters that countries such as China and Russia were buying that type of data from intermediaries, in addition to obtaining it through other corporate relationships. Officials said countries were using their access to the data for blackmail and surveillance and could employ artificial intelligence to improve use of the information. The White House made the officials available on condition of anonymity.

The executive order is also the latest escalation in a digital cold war between Washington and Beijing. The United States has cut Chinese hardware manufacturers out of crucial supplies and tried to force the sale of TikTok, owned by the Chinese Internet company ByteDance. In August, Mr. Biden put restrictions in place to make it difficult for American investors to pour money into developing sensitive technology, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, within China.

China also imposes restrictions on American technology companies operating within its borders and blocks access to sites such as Facebook and Google. Meanwhile, Chinese companies holding sensitive data have attracted scrutiny from Washington. The government forced a Chinese company to sell the dating app Grindr and has in the past worried about a Chinese genetics company, BGI.

Biden's order is part of a trend in which countries are trying more and more to control the data for their protection and economic benefit.

Governments across Europe have required companies to store data on their citizens within their national borders in their pursuit of what they call “digital sovereignty.” Russia has followed China's lead and built infrastructure that allows the government to block the Internet entirely.

The United States has long taken a lighter approach to regulating the flow of information over the Internet, beginning with President Bill Clinton's declaration of a “global free trade zone” in 1997.

Administration officials who spoke to reporters Tuesday sought to dispel the idea that the executive order was a sign that the approach was waning. They said the United States remained committed to the free flow of data around the world and that the rules would exempt the flow of data necessary for multinational companies to carry out normal activities such as handling payroll.

Biden's order will begin a process at the Justice Department to draft the rules, during which the public and companies will be able to provide feedback on how they should be structured.

Beyond prohibiting the sale of sensitive individual data to intermediaries who could send it to China or other countries, the administration is considering a strict ban on the sale of genomic data. It is also considering restricting companies from providing sensitive data in other circumstances, such as through an investment agreement. Companies could get around those restrictions by taking steps to protect Americans' privacy, such as encrypting data.

The rules have been in the works for years. Biden will issue the executive order about a week before he is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union address to Congress on March 7.

It is still possible that restricted countries could access Americans' data without purchasing it. FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said in 2020 that if “you are an American adult, chances are China has stolen your personal data.” He linked the Chinese military to the 2017 breach of Equifax, the credit rating service, which exposed the personal information of 150 million Americans.

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