New Biden Executive Order Aims to Protect Citizen’s Personal and Biometric Data from US Adversaries

By: Alex Trent | Published: Feb 28, 2024

On February 28, the Joe Biden White House announced the signing of an executive order to curtail foreign adversaries’ attempts to gather American citizen’s personal data.

In recent years, officials in the US government have accused countries like China and Russia of hacking into major American organizations and collecting sensitive data on American citizens.

Most Significant Data Security Executive Action in US History

The White House announcement of the executive order asserts it is unique among previous efforts by US presidents.

Joe Biden holds a pen while at his desk.

Source: The White House/Wikimedia

“The Executive Order, which marks the most significant executive action any President has ever taken to protect Americans’ data security, authorizes the Attorney General to prevent the large-scale transfer of Americans’ personal data to countries of concern and provides safeguards around other activities that can give those countries access to Americans’ sensitive data,” the statement said.


What Kinds of Information Does the Order Hope to Protect?

Biden’s executive order announcement goes on to specifically name certain types of data that have become increasingly vulnerable to the average American as systems in society become increasingly digitized.

An overhead view of two older people using a laptop

Source: freepik

“The President’s Executive Order focuses on Americans’ most personal and sensitive information, including genomic data, biometric data, personal health data, geolocation data, financial data, and certain kinds of personally identifiable information.” (via The White House)

This Data Enables Bad Actors to Invade American's Privacy and Commit Crimes

While some may not fully recognize the potential damage their personal data can cause to them and others, there is a developed underground industry that harvests this data for nefarious purposes.

An art piece featuring a camera.

Tobias Tullius

According to The White House, “Bad actors can use this data to track Americans (including military service members), pry into their personal lives, and pass that data on to other data brokers and foreign intelligence services. This data can enable intrusive surveillance, scams, blackmail, and other violations of privacy.”

Biden Directing the Department of Justice

The Biden executive order will direct the Department of Justice to issue a series of revised regulations that expand the protection America’s personal data receives.

President Joe Biden sitting at a desk signing a document.

The White House/Wikimedia Commons

“The Department of Justice to issue regulations that establish clear protections for Americans’ sensitive personal data from access and exploitation by countries of concern. These protections will extend to genomic data, biometric data, personal health data, geolocation data, financial data, and certain kinds of personal identifiers.” (via The White House)

Preventing Large Data Transfers to Foreign Countries

One of the primary motivations for these new Department of Justice regulations is to prevent large transfers of sensitive data by companies and organizations.

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Source: Nuno Alberto/Unsplash

In the past, the United States has accused foreign adversaries like China of hacking into this data for their own purposes, according to NBC News. In 2014, several American organizations both private and government were hacked with the blame being pinned on China.


China’s Data Hacking Efforts

According to NBC, Attorney General William Barr in 2020 announced they had charged four Chinese military hackers for the hack of Equifax.

A large Chinese flag is prominently displayed on a flagpole, fluttering in the wind above a street scene. Traditional Chinese architectural buildings line one side of the road, with electrical lines above and red lanterns hanging

Source: Yan Ke/Unsplash

Equifax is one of the largest consumer credit reporting agencies in the world that aggregates data of millions of customers and businesses. The 2017 hack exposed nearly 147 million customers’ personal information like names, addresses, credit card numbers, and social security numbers. (via Bankrate)


Protecting Military Members

Biden’s executive order will also direct the Department of Justice to issue serious guidelines for protecting sensitive government data, with one concern being the location and information regarding service members.

Three soldiers in camouflage uniforms and helmets are seated in a military truck, viewed from behind. They are wearing body armor and carrying backpacks, ready for deployment

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“The Department of Justice to issue regulations that establish greater protection of sensitive government-related data, including geolocation information on sensitive government sites and information about military members,” The White House statement said.


Companies Have a Treasure Trove of Data

These executive actions from the Biden Administration come as companies have been flush with valuable American consumer data. Because this type of data is so valuable, it is tempting for companies to resell this data through commercial data brokers.

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Source: Kelly Sikkema

The problem with these data brokers is that they sometimes turn around and resell the data to foreign countries, which can put national security at risk.


The Executive Order Isn't Intended to Disrupt Legitimate Business

While the Biden administration is taking cyber and data security seriously, it assures the public that it won’t take steps that will disrupt reliable forms of data selling in the United States economy.

A man holds a stack of papers while in an office.

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According to AP News, senior Biden officials conducted a call with reporters. During this call, they stated that the goal of this executive order was not to limit legitimate data commerce.


Election Concerns

This huge executive move by the Biden administration comes during a presidential election year, where concerns about hacking and data security are heightened ahead of November.

A 2020 map of the presidential election, with a map of the United States colored blue and red.

Source: Clay Banks/Unsplash

In 2018, a grand jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers who were stealing data like emails from US politicians and organizations in an attempt to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election. (via Department of Justice)


Biden Calls For Congress’ Cooperation

While the Biden administration is instituting these guidelines and regulations through executive action, they are still hoping Congress will assist in protecting American data.

Joe Biden speaks on stage to a crowd of supporters.

Source: Michael Stokes/Wikimedia

“Additionally, President Biden continues to urge Congress to do its part and pass comprehensive bipartisan privacy legislation, especially to protect the safety of our children,” The White House statement said.