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House passes bill to bar data brokers from selling personal information to U.S. adversaries

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Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee speaks during the hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.

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WASHINGTON — Bipartisan leaders of a House committee examining interstate and foreign commerce on Wednesday praised the passage of a bill aimed at keeping Americans’ private data out of the hands of U.S. adversaries.

The current list of countries designated as “foreign adversaries” by the United States includes China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Russia and the Maduro government in Venezuela.

“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,” Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said in a joint statement.

Rodgers and Pallone, the respective chair and ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced the bill to prohibit data brokers from selling sensitive data to certain countries in March. It passed unanimously by a vote of 414-0.

The strong showing “should help build momentum to get this important bipartisan legislation, as well as more comprehensive privacy legislation, signed into law this Congress,” the lawmakers said.

The bill bans organizations that profit from selling personal data, known as data brokers, from making data accessible to a foreign adversary country or entities controlled by adversaries.

It also authorizes the Federal Trade Commission to seek civil penalties of more than $50,000 for each violation.

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. The 1970 law ensures fairness and promotes privacy of information in data collected by consumer reporting agencies.

Suggested updates to the FCRA are included in a September 2023 outline of proposals under consideration.

Rodgers and Pallone said the bill’s passage builds on last week’s successful effort to pass another measure to require China-based ByteDance to divest from TikTok or risk a nationwide ban in the U.S.

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