April 19, 2024


The U.S. House passed a bill that would ban third-party data brokers from selling the user data of Americans to geopolitical adversaries like China and Russia. And while it still needs to pass the Senate to become law, it’s a step in the right direction as recent headlines mostly focus on a potential ban on TikTok in the U.S.

The Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Adversaries Act, H.R. 7520, passed unanimously on Wednesday, 414-0, and would ban data brokers from selling or disclosing the private information of Americans to any foreign adversary or “any entity of a foreign adversary.”

However, the bill is narrowly targeted and only applies to third-party data brokers. The legislation doesn’t ban American tech companies like Meta, Apple, or X from doing almost anything they want with the data they collect on users. The ban is also on data brokers sharing “sensitive information,” which includes stuff like genetics info, precise geolocation data, and private communications like emails and texts.

Sharing information like an American’s Social Security number, passport number, and driver’s license number is also banned by the new law, though it’s entirely possible countries like Russia and China could have this kind of information already given the relentless cyberattacks we only learn about well after the fact.

As Politico notes, the fate of this new data privacy legislation is uncertain in the Senate, which also has to decide whether it will take up the bill to force ByteDance to divest itself of TikTok. The bill would force TikTok to shut down if the Chinese parent company couldn’t or wasn’t willing to sell. Notably, the new unanimous House bill passed on Wednesday with a much more united front than the so-called TikTok ban bill, which passed the House last week 352-65.

Advocates of the new legislation that passed on Wednesday have pointed out that passing a TikTok ban would be silly as long as private data brokers are still legally allowed to just sell data from U.S. users to China and Russia. This new legislation would fix that loophole. Or, it will, if the Senate decides to take it up.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington.

A version of this article was originally published on Gizmodo.



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