The Biden administration has issued a decree that will give the Justice Department enormous powers to prevent foreign opponents like China from accessing Americans’ personal data, according to a person familiar with the case and excerpts seen by Reuters.
The proposal, which is being reviewed by government agencies, will also lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prevent federal funding from supporting the transfer of U.S. health data to foreign opponents, according to the excerpts.
The draft order reflects an effort by the administration to respond more aggressively to national security threats allegedly posed by Chinese companies acquiring lots of US personal data, following unsuccessful bids by the Trump administration to prevent Americans from using popular social media platforms TikTok and Wechat.
Former President Donald Trump tried to ban apps in 2020, claiming that data collected by them could be given to Beijing and used to track users and censor content. China and apps have denied any wrongful use of US data.
But the courts halted the implementation of the bans, and US President Joe Biden eventually revoked them.
Spokesmen for the White House, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce declined to comment. HHS did not respond to requests for comment.
The document is a first draft that does not include input from public authorities and may change, according to another person familiar with the matter.
If implemented, the draft order would give U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland the authority to review and potentially block commercial transactions involving the sale of or access to data if they pose an unnecessary risk to national security, one of the individuals said. .
The proposal would also instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to begin writing a rule “to ensure that federal assistance, such as grants and rewards, does not support the transfer of U.S. individuals’ health, health, or biological data… entities owned by, controlled by, or under the jurisdiction or direction of foreign adversaries, “according to an excerpt.
U.S. intelligence has warned of the risks posed by Chinese companies that collect U.S. personal data by investing in U.S. companies that handle sensitive health information. China’s BGI acquired the US genomic sequencing company Complete Genomics in 2013, and in 2015, Chinese WuXi Pharma Tech acquired the US company NextCODE Health, the national counterintelligence and safety center listed in a 2021 fact sheet.
The draft order comes as administration officials have become frustrated with the Department of Commerce over delays in rolling out rules and investigating threats under similar powers given to this department of Trump in 2019, according to three people familiar with the process.
These powers allow the Department of Commerce to ban or restrict transactions between U.S. companies and Internet, telecommunications, and technology companies from “foreign opposing” nations, including Russia and China.
But so far, the department has failed to publish long-awaited rules that deepen a safe harbor process for companies or publish the results of investigations by companies, including Russia’s Kaspersky and China’s Alibaba, as previously reported by Reuters.
The Department of Commerce was also explicitly instructed by a June executive order to use the new tools to protect U.S. sensitive data from foreign adversaries through transactions involving apps but has not announced any progress on the measure.
The new draft executive order gives the Ministry of Justice the express authority to “monitor compliance with and enforce any prohibitions, licenses or mitigating agreements” issued under the previous executive orders, “thereby supporting the authority given to the Minister of Commerce.”
It also instructs the Minister of Commerce to determine which types of transactions are directly prohibited and which are exempt, another excerpt shows.
(With the exception of the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)