Bloomberg: Biden Administration Preparing Order to Restrict Foreign Sales of U.S. Data

Riley Griffin, Bloomberg:

The administration plans to soon unveil the new executive order, which will direct the US Attorney General and Department of Homeland Security to issue new restrictions on transactions involving data that, if obtained, could threaten national security, according to three people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named as the details are still private.

The draft order focuses on ways that foreign adversaries are gaining access to Americans’ “highly sensitive” personal data — from genetic information to location — through legal means. That includes obtaining information through intermediaries, such as data brokers, third-party vendor agreements, employment agreements or investment agreements, according to a draft of the proposed order.

Like the X-Mode settlement earlier this year, this does not reflect a principled stance on data brokers. The Biden administration has not reached the conclusion that this shady industry trading barely-legal data is terrible for Americans’ privacy and should be abolished. Its objection to the ways in which this information can be used by political adversaries is real, sure, but it can still be made available if passed through intermediaries. There is no reliable way of geofencing the kind of data sold by these brokers; I have found my own (Canadian) personal information in databases of brokers who insist they only hoard details about U.S. citizens.

The only way to effectively restrict this trade is to reduce the amount of data that can be collected. Cut it off at the source.