House Committee Approves Bill Restricting Sales of Sensitive Data to Foreign Adversaries

March 7, 2024

Today, the House Energy & Commerce Committee approved H.R. 7520, the Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Adversaries Act of 2024, sponsored by Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). The bill prohibits data brokers from selling, transferring, or providing access to Americans’ sensitive data to certain foreign adversaries or entities controlled by foreign adversaries.

Under the bill, sensitive data includes identifiers such as social security numbers, geolocation data, data about minors, biometric information, and private communications. “Information identifying an individual’s online activities over time and across websites or online services” is also considered sensitive data.

A report by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties last year found that sensitive information about U.S. political figures, members of our military, and other high profile targets can be obtained by China and other foreign advertising through the ‘real time bidding’ system used by data brokers to target online ads.

“There is an urgent need to rein in data brokers, who are profiting off the sale of our most sensitive data and putting Americans at risk,” said EPIC Executive Director Alan Butler. “This bill is an important step in the right direction in providing specific protections for sensitive data. But EPIC believes it is long past time for Congress to enact comprehensive privacy protections that include a strong data minimization standard, protect civil rights online, and provide for robust enforcement to stop harmful commercial surveillance practices.”

EPIC has long supported heightened protections for sensitive personal data, including in congressional testimony supporting the proposed American Data Privacy and Protection Act, in EPIC’s proposed State Data Privacy and Protection Act, and in comments on the Federal Trade Commission’s commercial surveillance rulemaking. EPIC has also backed strict prohibitions on the sale of personal information by data brokers, including in comments on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Fair Credit Reporting Act rulemaking.

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