"The data marketplace where advertisers go to sell ads for a local store should not be the same place the government goes to evade warrant requirements," the Electronic Frontier Foundation asserted.
Digital rights defenders on Wednesday hailed a U.S. congressional committee's approval of legislation that would protect Americans' data from being purchased by intelligence or law enforcement agencies without a warrant.
Reps. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) on Tuesday reintroduced the Fourth Amendment Is Not for Sale Act (FANFSA) in a bid to close a loophole in federal law exploited by spy agencies and police to collect U.S. citizens' phone and other data without obtaining warrants.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee quickly moved to advance FANFSA.
"Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee just made clear that the data broker loophole must and will be closed."
"The Fourth Amendment protects the right to privacy, and it is not for sale," Davidson said in a statement. "Our bipartisan legislation creates needed reform by prohibiting the government from purchasing Americans' data without judicial oversight. Unconstitutional mass government surveillance must end."
Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that "the Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable search or seizure and it is critical that we not let the government sidestep that right by purchasing data."
"Sensitive data that can cover anything from Americans' location data, internet activity, or healthcare data must be protected," she added. "This is a civil rights issue and it's time to ban this practice."
Groups including Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and Free Press Action welcomed the committee's FANFSA vote.
"Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee just made clear that the data broker loophole must and will be closed," Demand Progress senior policy council Sean Vitka said in a statement. "This is a major step forward for privacy in the digital age."
EPIC deputy director Caitriona Fitzgerald called FANFSA "the latest sign of bipartisan support in Congress to tackle the government's warrantless purchase of Americans' personal data, such as location information and internet records, in circumvention of the Fourth Amendment and statutory protections."
Wednesday's vote precedes the highly anticipated debate later this year over potential reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a sweeping warrantless mandate that has been abused hundreds of thousands of times,including to spy on protestors, congressional donors, journalists, and others. Section 702 is set to expire at the end of the year unless reauthorized by Congress.
From COINTELPRO—a Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance, infiltration, and disruption program targeting U.S. leftists in which the FBI funded and armedmurderous far-right militants to terrorize dissidents—to the War on Terror-era National Security Agency global mass spying exposed by exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden and monitoring of Black Lives Matter and other activists, the U.S. government has a long history of illegal surveillance of its own citizens.
"News outlets have been filled with headlines in the last year of government agencies, from immigration enforcement to the U.S. military, acquiring location data collected about you by smartphone applications," EFF said in a pro-FANFSA petition. "The data marketplace where advertisers go to sell ads for a local store should not be the same place the government goes to evade warrant requirements."
The House Judiciary Committee's FANFSA vote follows the full lower chamber's unanimous approval last week of the Davidson-Jacobs amendment to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act that would close a loophole used by the Pentagon and NSA to purchase data that would otherwise require a warrant, court order, or subpoena.
U.S. intelligence agencies have long been accused of paying their way around the Constitution to obtain protected location information in bulk, including data from Muslim dating and prayer apps.
"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," Free Press Action vice president of policy and general counsel Matt Wood said in a statement.
"This is a protection that must also extend to personal information scavenged by data brokers," he added. "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."