Lawmakers Ask Trade Czar To Stem Data Threats

Members of Congress want the Obama administration to demand that U.S. allies back away from proposed restrictions on international data transmissions, saying those actions could hurt U.S. companies.

Some nations are seeking to tighten the flow of data after reports this fall of the National Security Agency conducting massive information-gathering efforts abroad.

Germany has asked European Union officials to consider restrictions that would prevent U.S. companies from processing commercial and personal data from customers in Europe. That could affect the flow of information and hurt U.S. businesses such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

Other proposals could affect the development of cloud computing.

A bipartisan group of House members -- 12 Democrats and six Republicans -- has sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, insisting that nations abandon such efforts as a condition of pending trade pacts.

"These policies threaten to harm American and international businesses," the lawmakers said in a letter dated Friday. The letter's primary authors were Reps. Michael McCaul, a Republican, and Doris Matsui, a Democrat , co-chairs of the Congressional High Tech Caucus.

The letter also cited measures ordered by President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil to make the country's online system more independent from the U.S. and other countries.

Asked about the letter, Froman's office said, "We are confident that we will be able to respect privacy protections on both sides of the Atlantic as we advance our common digital trade agenda."

"The United States and the European Union have one of the most substantial data transfer networks in the world, and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic depend on the ability to transfer data seamlessly across borders to conduct their global business operations," the trade representative's office said in a statement. It called the existing U.S.-EU agreement "a vital bridge."

This fall, reports surfaced that the NSA has...

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