Four Republicans and four Democrats are teaming up to prevent federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies from using a loophole to warrantlessly collect citizens’ personal data.
Personal data, as in, where you are at any given moment.
As it stands now, the government can’t constitutionally make private companies give them your private data without some form of due process.
But there are no laws that currently prevent them from buying it. And they have been.
Tech outlet WIRED reported Tuesday, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Defense Intelligence Agency are among several government entities known to have solicited private data brokers to access information for which a court order is generally required. A growing number of lawmakers have come to view the practice as an end run around the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable government searches and seizures.”
The 4th Amendment protects the right to privacy, and it is not for sale.
Our bipartisan legislation creates needed reform by prohibiting the government from purchasing Americans’ data without judicial oversight.https://t.co/Xf0rCFxvlE
— Warren Davidson 🇺🇸 (@WarrenDavidson) July 18, 2023
Republican Congressman Warren Davidson, who sponsored the bill, said, “This unconstitutional mass government surveillance must end.”
Members of the House Judiciary Committee are expected to hold a hearing on Wednesday to consider Davidson’s bill. The legislation seeks to prevent both federal agencies and state and local law enforcement from purchasing citizens’ private data without a warrant or court order.
The Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale Act was also introduced last year by Democrats Jerry Nadler and Zoe Lofgren, who also co-sponsor Davidson’s current bill. They are joined by Republican Reps. Andy Biggs, Ken Buck, and Thomas Massie and Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Sara Jacobs.
WIRED noted, “Notably, the bill’s protections extend to data obtained from a person’s account or device even if hacked by a third party, or when disclosure is referenced by a company’s terms of service. The bill’s sponsors note this would effectively prohibit the government from doing business with companies such as Clearview AI, which has admitted to scraping billions of photos from social media to fuel a facial recognition tool that’s been widely tested by local police departments.”
While one could imagine a myriad of ways authorities would want to surveil private citizens, TechCrunch reported in May that religious minorities have been a focus.
“The biggest victims of government surveillance are often marginalized communities,” the tech news outlet reported. “For example, the military purchased sensitive geolocation data gathered from a Muslim prayer app and a Muslim dating app in order to track users. The broker that sold the user geolocation data, Locate X, boasts of being ‘widely used’ by the military, intelligence agencies and several levels of law enforcement.”
The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protects Americans’ right to privacy, yet the government is always looking for ways to skirt the law.
When it comes to authorities buying up our private data it appears there is no law prohibiting it. Let’s hope that changes.