On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) issued interim final regulations (interim rules) implementing Executive Order 13873, Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology Services Supply Chain (EO), which was intended to address alleged threats against information and communications technology and services (ICTS) in the United States. The new review mechanism focuses on transactions involving any acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in, or use of ICTS that has been designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by parties owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of “foreign adversaries.”
While the focus on the rules is not foreign investment per se, it will complement the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’ (CFIUS) investment security review mechanisms. Indeed, the interim rules borrow several concepts and definitions from CFIUS’s recently amended regulations.
Commerce invited interested parties to submit comments on the interim rules. Parties must submit comments by March 22, 2021. Commerce will publish final regulations after considering any comments submitted.
This post provides key takeaways and a brief summary of Commerce’s new review mechanism.
On January 5, 2021, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order (EO) 13971, banning certain transactions and activities with persons who “develop or control” eight Chinese “connected software applications,”1 specifically Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office. The prohibitions will come into effect 45 days after the issuance of the order, that is, February 19.
On December 18, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) regarding a proposal to impose on banks1 and money service businesses (MSBs) new recordkeeping, reporting, and identity verification requirements in relation to certain transactions involving convertible virtual currency (CVC) or digital assets with legal tender status (legal tender digital assets or LTDA)2 if the counterparty to the transaction does not have an account with, including a digital asset wallet hosted by, a financial institution regulated under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) or certain foreign financial institutions not located in designated problematic jurisdictions. If adopted, the proposed rule will impose significant new burdens only on banks and MSBs involved in digital asset businesses and undercut the role of U.S. institutions in digital asset economies, including in the growing area of “decentralized finance.” The NPR proposes to exclude broker-dealers, futures commission merchants, and mutual funds, among others that are subject to the BSA from these new reporting requirements, but specifically requests the industry’s comment on whether these types of institutions should also be included within the scope of the rule.
Affected institutions will have very limited time to assess and comment on the NPR, as the comment period closes on January 4, 2021, notwithstanding two intervening federal holidays.
Lawfare recently published “Why Schrems II Might Not Be a Problem for EU-U.S. Data Transfers*,” written by Sidley Partner Alan Charles Raul. This article was adapted from a longer article on our Data Matters blog, “Schrems II Concerns Regarding U.S. National Security Surveillance Do Not Apply to Most Companies Transferring Personal Data to the U.S. Under Standard Contractual Clauses.”
(*Note that this article was published by the Lawfare Institute in cooperation with Brookings.)
The thesis articulated in the article linked here is that (1) nearly all companies relying on standard contractual clauses for data transfers to the US under the EU General Data Protection Regulation are not electronic communications service providers for purposes of FISA 702 (i.e., only companies in the business of providing communications services would be covered) and (2) data transfers from Europe to the US under SCCs may not be targeted under FISA 702 and EO 12333 because they are (i) quintessential “US person communications” because either the data exporter is a U.S. person or the data importer is a U.S. person, or more likely, both are US persons and (ii) received by a person located in the U.S. Accordingly, the concerns expressed by the EU Court of Justice in Schrems II should not be problematic for nearly all U.S. companies relying on SCCs.
Recent changes to Chinese law have broad implications on cross-border data transfer in the course of investigations conducted by non-Chinese regulators. Clients work closely with counsel to navigate potential legal landmines in any defense of an investigation involving data from China.
Just over six months ago, on March 24, 2020, the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) revised Securities Law (revised on December 28, 2019) (中华⼈民共和国证券法（2019年修订) went into effect. While the revised Securities Law affects many aspects of China’s securities law framework (including the registration of new securities for initial public offerings, disclosure requirements, and investor protection rules), a new “blocking” provision is particularly notable. Specifically, Article 177 of the revised Securities Law prohibits non-Chinese securities regulators from conducting investigations within China and prevents Chinese individuals and entities from providing information to such regulators without first receiving approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission and/or other competent departments under the State Council.
On October 1, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published an advisory that highlights the risk of potential U.S. sanctions law violations if U.S. individuals and businesses comply with ransomware payment demands.1
Ransomware attacks use malware, often injected through phishing schemes, to encrypt a victim’s data files or programs, followed by a ransom demand by the threat actor that offers the decryption key in exchange for payment. Payment is often demanded in bitcoin, and thus third-party services are often used to make such payments. Increasingly, ransomware attacks not only lock data up but steal data from the victim and threaten to publish sensitive files belonging to victims. According to OFAC, ransomware attacks have been increasing over the last two years and are a special risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, with cybercriminals targeting not only large corporations but also small to medium enterprises, hospitals, schools, and local government agencies.2
On September 28, the U.S. government released a “White Paper” addressing how U.S. companies might justify their continued transfer to the U.S. of personal data of EU residents, following the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU,” or “ECJ”) in Schrems II – more formally known as Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook Ireland and Maximillian Schrems, Case C-311/18 (July 16, 2020). The Schrems II decision struck down the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield as a basis for transferring EU personal data to the United States because of the Court’s view that U.S. national security law did not provide equivalent privacy protections to those available in the EU. While the CJEU upheld Commission-approved Standard Contractual Clauses (“SCCs”) as a basis for transfers of EU personal data to the U.S., the Court imposed significant new hurdles for the use of SCCs.
*This article was adapted from “Global Overview,” appearing in The Privacy, Data Protection and Cybersecurity Law Review (7th Ed. 2020)(Editor Alan Charles Raul), published by Law Business Research Ltd., and first published by the International Association of Privacy Professionals Privacy Perspectives series on September 28, 2020.
Privacy, like everything else in 2020, was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers and governments have been required to consider privacy in adjusting workplace practices to account for who has a fever and other symptoms, who has traveled where, who has come into contact with whom, and what community members have tested positive or been exposed.
As a result of all this need for tracking and tracing, governments and citizens alike have recognized the inevitable trade-offs between exclusive focus on privacy versus exclusive focus on public health and safety.
On September 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of the Treasury published a final rule modifying the types of foreign investments that would trigger a mandatory filing before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The final rule largely tracks a proposed rule published by CFIUS on May 21, 2020. The final rule will come into effect on October 15, 2020, and will apply only to transactions that take place on or after that date. It is not retroactive.