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New bill would require export licenses for some sensitive data

Ron Wyden

Sen. Ron Wyden has introduced a draft bill requiring export licenses for some sensitive data.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A draft bill from Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden would require companies exporting certain sensitive data to obtain export licenses if sending the information to countries with poor records on user privacy, spying and other measures.

Wyden, a Democrat who is known for sometimes lonely opposition to many forms of government surveillance, specifically cited Chinese efforts to obtain personal data in his announcement of the bill. He pointed to "vast troves" of data on cell phone use, credit card purchases and more widely available for sale, but said the bill would also apply to many other data transfers.

Federal agencies would determine which granular categories of personal information would be subject to licensing and and which importing countries would require licenses according to the draft text, which was released Thursday. Wyden said the effort would build on existing U.S. law that limits the sale of companies holding sensitive data and other technologies to certain foreign buyers.

Tech companies, some of which send data all around the world in the course of business, have opposed data localization requirements, even as the U.S. and other countries seek to limit what they see as hostile actors' access to information on citizens.

The Trump administration, for instance, sought to block access to popular app TikTok over concerns about China's access to its parent company's data.

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