WASHINGTON: The Biden administration has drafted an executive order that would give the Department of Justice vast powers to stop foreign adversaries like China accessing Americans’ personal data, according to a person familiar with the matter and excerpts seen by Reuters.
The proposal, which is being reviewed by government agencies, would also direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prevent federal funding from supporting the transfer of US health data to foreign adversaries, 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 that acquire reams of US personal data, after failed bids by the Trump administration to bar Americans from using popular social media platforms TikTok and Wechat.
Former President Donald Trump tried to ban the apps in 2020 alleging data collected by them could be given to Beijing and used to track users and censor content. China and the apps have denied any improper use of US data.
But the courts halted implementation of the bans and US President Joe Biden eventually revoked them.
Spokespeople for the White House, the Department of Justice and the Commerce Department declined to comment. HHS did not respond to requests for comment.
The document is an initial draft that does not include input from government agencies and may change, according to another person familiar with the matter.
Asked about the proposal at a press briefing on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that while China believed each country had the right to take measures to protect the personal data and privacy of its citizens, relevant initiatives should be “reasonable and scientific”.
They “should not be relegated as a tool for individual countries to over-generalise the concept of national security, abuse national power, and unreasonably suppress specific countries and enterprises”, he said.
Samm Sacks, a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center who examines information and communications policies, said the US was trying to decide how to deal with the issue.