The free movement of data across borders is critical to economic growth, has benefits for data security, and promotes privacy, speech, and associational rights.  Yet, increasingly states are adopting a range of measures that restrict data flows to the United States and elsewhere and adopting costly data localization mandates, pursuant to which companies must store data locally.  Such restrictions on the free movement of data harm U.S. business interests, undermine the growth potential of the Internet and thus the global economy, and undercut both data security and privacy.

Tomorrow morning the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce will be holding a hearing – titled “21st Century Trade Barriers Protectionist Cross-Border Data Flow Policies’ Impact on U.S. Jobs” – to address these concerns. 

As I explain in my testimony below, many of the restrictions are directed specifically at the United States or adopted in direct response to concerns about U.S. policies and market power.  The motivating factors are multiple—including fears about the scope of U.S. foreign intelligence surveillance, concerns about the adequacy of U.S. consumer privacy protections, a desire by foreign governments to ensure their own ability to access sought-after data, and sheer protectionism. There is, as a result, no single, all-encompassing solution.  But there are nonetheless important steps that the United States can take to address some of the motivating forces and thereby promote a free and open Internet. 

Specifically, I identify steps the United States should take with respect to: 

  1. surveillance policy,
  2. consumer privacy protections,
  3. law enforcement access to data across borders,
  4. and trade policy. 

Collectively, these reforms would go a long way to eliminating the motivating forces in favor of data localization requirements and facilitate the free flow of data across borders.  Doing so will be good for the economy, good for security, and good for privacy—both domestically and globally.

Click through the jump to read my full testimony. 

House Energy Committee.daskal.testimony.finaL.10.11.17 (1) by Just Security on Scribd