Biden cracks down on US data flows to China, Russia

Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday unveiled an executive order barring genomic data transfers to China, as it seeks to protect American personal data over national security concerns.

The order, first reported by Reuters, will also curb bulk transfers of Americans’ geolocation, biometric, health and financial information to specific “countries of concern,” including Russia Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.

The directive appeared to zero in on Chinese gene companies like BGI, barring transfer of any volume of genomic data to countries of concern.

“This is the White House’s way of tackling a set of very specific China and Russia focused security threats, including the threat posed by genomics companies like BGI,” said Peter Harrell, a former National Security Council official, describing genomic information as “extremely high risk data” and adding there was “little need for that to be processed in China.”BGI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Washington has been trying to stem the flow of American personal data to China, part of a years-long struggle over trade and technology.

The US Congress is considering legislation to ban federal agencies from contracting with China’s BGI Group and Wuxi APPTEC, part of an effort to keep China from accessing American genetic data and personal health information.

This month, BGI Group said it supports protecting personal data, but the legislation “which will effectively drive BGI from the US market, will not accomplish this goal.”