House Judiciary Committee Advances Bill Barring Government from Circumventing Fourth Amendment to Purchase Americans’ Data

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Chairman of the House Judiciary
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced legislation that would bar the federal government from circumventing the Fourth Amendment by purchasing Americans’ private data without a warrant.

The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act advanced out of committee with 30 votes in favor, no lawmakers against, and only one member who voted “present.”

“The sale and purchase of Americans’ data without judicial oversight must end,” Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) said in a statement after the vote.

He continued:

I’m proud to work with my colleagues to advance a bipartisan measure that protects the right to privacy. Under no circumstance should the government have the ability to use data privacy loopholes to bypass the Fourth Amendment and spy on American citizens.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) said in a statement:

The Constitution explicitly protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures. Rep. Davidson’s bill will help defend Americans’ private information, including personal data, from federal government overreach in the new digital age, and the Judiciary Committee was proud to vote in support of it today.

The legislation’s advancement out of committee marks the latest bipartisan victory to protect Americans’ privacy.

Reps. Davidson, Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Ken Buck (R-CO), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Sara Jacobs (D-CA) introduced the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act on Tuesday.

The legislation, according to a press release from Davidson’s office:

  • Requires the government to get a court order to force data brokers to disclose data — the same kind of court order needed to compel data from tech and phone companies.
  • Stops law enforcement and intelligence agencies buying data on people in the U.S. and about 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, this bill prevents the government from buying data from Clearview.AI.
  • Extends existing privacy laws to firms that own data cables & cell towers.
  • Closes loopholes that permit the intelligence community to buy or otherwise acquire metadata about Americans’ international calls, texts and emails to family and friends abroad, and obtain records about their web browsing of foreign websites — information that would normally require a court order to compel.
  • Takes away the Attorney General’s authority to grant civil immunity to providers and other third parties for assistance with surveillance not required or permitted by statute. Providers retain immunity for surveillance assistance ordered by a court.

Biggs said the bill would bar federal agencies from exploiting a loophole to obtain information they would otherwise have to obtain a search warrant to access. The Arizona Republican noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paid $420,000 to purchase location data during the coronavirus pandemic to determine if Americans were abiding by social distancing laws.

Watch — Rep. Andy Biggs: CDC Purchased $420k Worth of Data to Surveil Americans During the Coronavirus Pandemic

U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) praised Lofgren’s questioning of FBI Director Christopher Wray, asking if it was a run-around of the Fourth Amendment. Gaetz noted that Wray said in response to Lofgren that the answer is complicated.

Jayapal said that this practice is “outrageous,” “unacceptable,” and “dangerous.” She said the declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) found that the data obtained from these practices could lead to “blackmail, stalking, and public shaming.”

Watch: Pramila Jayapal Hounds FBI over FISA Practices, Purchasing Private American Data as Run-Around of the 4th Amendment


Lofgren explained that the bill is just part of the privacy battle to rein in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a law that will expire at the end of the year. She noted that Wray and the FBI never followed up with committee lawmakers about if this practice goes around the Fourth Amendment.

Jordan agreed with Lofrgren, saying that Section 702 “needs to be dramatically changed.”

Sean Vitka, the policy counsel for Demand Progress, said that Jordan and Lofgren’s focus on this legislation being part of the larger 702 battle will help change the “course of the biggest fight over warrantless surveillance in generations!”

He also cheered Davidson and Jacobs, who led the fight to close the Data Broker Loophole at the Pentagon.

This is the latest victory for privacy-centric Republicans and Democrats. The House-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included Davidson’s amendment that would bar the Pentagon from purchasing Americans’ data.

Watch: GOP Rep. Calls to Pass Amendment that Bans Pentagon from Circumventing Fourth Amendment

U.S. House of Representatives

Sean Moran is a policy reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.


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