The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

House Judiciary Advances Legislation That Would Restrict Authorities from Buying Away the Privacy Rights of Americans

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted to advance the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act (FANFSA), legislation that would restrict law enforcement and intelligence agencies from purchasing data on people in the United States without a warrant.

FANFSA, which was first introduced in 2021, is cosponsored by four Democrats and four Republicans and has overwhelming support from the American public. According to a 2020 Harris poll, 77 percent of people believe the government should get a warrant to buy the kind of detailed location information that is frequently purchased and sold by data brokers on the commercial marketplace.

The House last week voted in support of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that similarly prohibits warrantless purchases by defense agencies of U.S. residents’ location information, web browsing history, internet search history, or any other information protected by the Fourth Amendment. But FANSFA would apply to a broader suite of law enforcement agencies and is not contingent upon Senate passage of the defense bill.

FANSFA would close a data-broker loophole that opens to warrantless government examination information from websites, social networks, gaming platforms and other online applications that are routinely used by people in the United States. The data includes geolocation information and other details that the government can use to determine Americans’ activities, associations, and even beliefs — with law enforcement and intelligence agencies disproportionately using this information to track and target people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, and dissidents.

Free Press Action Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood said:

“The government should not be able to buy its way out of the Fourth Amendment. Requiring a warrant for any data not only protects our right to privacy, but our freedoms of association, religion and belief. This is a protection that must also extend to personal information scavenged by data brokers. The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act closes a legal loophole and ensures that law enforcement and intelligence agencies can’t do an end-run around the Constitution.

“We’re grateful that the House Judiciary Committee moved so quickly this week to help enact these vital protections. The bill would prevent flagrant abuses of our privacy by government authorities in league with unscrupulous data merchants. Passing this legislation would be a decisive and long overdue action against government misuse of this clandestine business sector that trades away our essential rights for profit.

“The privacy violations that flow from law- enforcement entities circumventing the Fourth Amendment undermine civil liberties, free expression, and our ability to control what happens to our data. These impacts affect all who use digital platforms and give up control of our personal information — often without realizing it — when we open a browser, go to social media and other websites, or even when we go to real-life events like demonstrations and other places with our phones in tow and revealing our locations.

“Such warrantless data collection and sale is an outrageous violation of the spirit and letter of the Constitution, and it demands this urgent action by Congress and the White House to make FANFSA the law.”

Free Press Action is fighting grave threats to the free and open internet, local journalism and a functioning democracy.