Data localization mandates affect a variety of national security interests, including the ability of security actors to share information, promote cybersecurity, and fight the tools of digital authoritarianism. These mandates are also routinely implemented under shaky “national security” pretenses. Even established democracies have struggled to balance the allure of the so-called digital sovereignty afforded by data localization with the economic and national security arguments against such policies.
While much has been made of the economic impact—especially the threat to businesses—if data cannot flow freely across borders, there has not been in-depth dialogue on the real national security implications of global data-flow restrictions. Further, while the localization of data has been discussed at length throughout the past five years, U.S. policymakers have yet to reach a formal consensus on domestic data localization mandates or assemble responses to policies enacted by allies and adversaries alike.