Bill Barring Brokers from Selling Personal Data Passes House

The House of Representatives passed a bill that bars data brokers from selling the sensitive personal information of U.S. citizens to foreign adversaries, identified in the federal code as China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela. The Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Adversaries Act of 2024 passed unanimously on Wednesday, 414-0. The bill prohibits organizations that profit from selling personal consumer information from making it accessible to foreign adversary countries or entities controlled by them, authorizing the Federal Trade Commission to impose civil fines of more than $50,000 per violation.

“Today’s overwhelming vote sends a clear message that we will not allow our adversaries to undermine American national security and individual privacy by purchasing people’s personally identifiable sensitive information from data brokers,” announced House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) and ranking member Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey).

H.R. 7520 is another key step towards strengthening data protections and safeguarding our nation from foreign adversaries,” the statement continued.

The legislation “builds on the anti-TikTok bill the House passed last week,” writes Politico, noting that though the bill focused on that China-owned platform “captured far more attention,” with fans of the app flooding legislators’ phone lines, “it may be the lower-profile data bill that has more influence and a clearer path to passage.”

Should both bills pass, the Protecting Americans’ Data Act could help substantiate the TikTok ban in the courts.

Both proposed laws “are built to counter the perceived threat from China to American security,” Politico says, pointing out that the bills “were introduced together, and intended to complement each other,” though now their politics are diverging, with the data broker bill getting support from some progressive lawmakers who opposed the TikTok measure.

“The legislation follows earlier efforts by the Biden administration to hold data brokers who sell highly sensitive information more accountable by bolstering the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” explains CNBC, noting that the 1970 law “ensures fairness and promotes privacy of information in data collected by consumer reporting agencies.”

“Much like a recent executive order from President Joe Biden targeting data brokers, the bill specifically covers geolocation, financial, health, and biometric data, as well as other private information like text logs and phone call history,” points out Engadget, adding that as with the TikTok bill, the Data Act must gain Senate support before seeking Biden’s signature.

“Officials have previously warned that China and other geopolitical rivals of the United States have already acquired vast troves of Americans’ information from brokers and privacy advocates have long urged lawmakers to regulate the multibillion-dollar industry,” Engadget reports.

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