On April 15, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., released a discussion draft of legislation that would regulate the exportation of American citizen’s sensitive, personal information to adversarial nations.

The Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Surveillance Act would establish new safeguards against exporting personal information to adversarial nations that could harm U.S. national security.

“Shady data brokers shouldn’t get rich selling Americans’ private data to foreign countries that could use it to threaten our national security,” said Wyden in a press release. “My bill would set up common sense rules for how and where sensitive data can be shared overseas, to make sure that foreign criminals and spies don’t get their hands on it.

The draft legislation does the following:

  • Directs the Commerce Secretary to lead an interagency process to identify categories of personal data that could harm national security;
  • Compile a list of countries to which exports of that personal data would not harm national security, and “to require licenses for exports of the identified categories of personal data to other countries in bulk;”
  • Ensures export rules don’t apply to journalism and other speech protected by the First Amendment;
  • Applies export control penalties to senior executives who knew or should have known of the illegal exportation of personal data;
  • Create a private right of action for individuals who have been physically harmed or arrested and detained in a foreign country as a result of the illegal export of personal data; and
  • Requires the Commerce Department to publish quarterly reports on personal data exports.

The legislation would amend the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 and builds on the 2018 Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act, which directed a “review and if necessary, stop the purchase of U.S. firms holding large amounts of Americans’ personal data.”

“This legislation is another piece in a slate of bills I’m introducing this Congress to provide comprehensive protection for Americans’ sensitive information,” said Wyden.

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