Proposed Legislation Would Raise Bar for Federal Agencies Seeking to Obtain Americans’ Personal Data

On Wednesday, a coalition of 20 senators, including Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Rand Paul, (R-Ky).), introduced The Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act “to put a stop to shady data brokers buying and selling Americans’ Constitutional rights.” The bill reportedly would close a loophole that currently allows data brokers to sell citizens’ personal information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies without judicial scrutiny. This status quo contrasts to the strict rules by which phone companies, social media sites, and other consumer businesses abide, Wyden’s press release explained.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), introduced the House version of the bill, according to Nadler’s press release. It explained that The Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale Act will make it more difficult for federal agencies to gather citizens’ online and telephonic records.

If passed, the bill will require the government to obtain a court order to compel data brokers to disclose information. Additionally, it will stop law enforcement and intelligence agencies from purchasing data about people in the U.S. and Americans abroad, “if the data was obtained from a user’s account or device, or via deception, hacking, violations of a contract, privacy policy, or terms of service.” As such, the bill seeks to curb the government’s practice of buying data from Clearview AI, recently the subject of several lawsuits.

The proposed legislation also would expand existing privacy laws to infrastructure firms that own data cables and cell towers. Further, it would bar intelligence agencies from acquiring metadata about Americans’ international calls and texts and emails to family and friends abroad without Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court review.

The bill also calls upon intelligence agencies seeking information on Americans, like location data, web browsing records, and search history, to do so within the framework of FISA. Finally, the proffered legislation would remove the U.S. Attorney General’s ability to “grant civil immunity to providers and other third parties for assistance with surveillance not required or permitted by statute,” although providers would retain immunity when instructed to surveil by court order.