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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the House 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 Democratic and Republican lawmakers cosponsored, would close a data-broker loophole that allows the government to buy data they would otherwise need a warrant to obtain. This means there can be warrantless government examination of information from websites, social networks, gaming platforms and other online applications that people in the United States routinely use. The data include geolocation information and other details that the government can use to determine Americans’ activities, associations and beliefs — with law enforcement and intelligence agencies able to exploit this information to disproportionately track and target people of color, immigrants, religious minorities and dissidents.

Free Press Action Policy Counsel Jenna Ruddock said:

“We’re grateful that the House passed these vital and popular protections. The bill would prevent flagrant abuses of our privacy by government authorities in league with unscrupulous third-party data brokers. Making this legislation into law with Senate passage too would be a decisive and long-overdue action against government misuse of this clandestine business sector that traffics in our personal data for profit.

“Unfortunately, however, the passing of this legislation follows a House vote held last week to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act's Section 702 authority for two years. An amendment designed to constrain the U.S. government’s ability to search for and review Americans’ personal information collected under Section 702 without a warrant failed on a tie vote. So today’s vote is a victory but follows a recent loss and ongoing threat as that Section 702 bill moves to the Senate this week too.

“No government entity should be able to buy its way around the Fourth Amendment. Requiring a warrant to access our private information not only protects our right to privacy but our freedoms of association, religion and belief. 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 by buying information from data brokers that would require a warrant for the government to collect directly.

“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 everyone who uses digital platforms that extract our personal information any time we open a browser or visit social media and other websites — even when we go to events like demonstrations and other places with our phones revealing our locations.

“Such warrantless data collection and sale is an outrageous violation of the Constitution. As FANFSA and the 702 reauthorization move to the Senate, lawmakers in that chamber need to take a stand for the rights of people in the United States. That means passing FANFSA and reforming Section 702 authority — and prioritizing everyone’s First and Fourth Amendment rights.

Background: Four House Democrats and four House Republicans are cosponsoring FANFSA, which was first introduced in 2021 and passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in 2023. The bill 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 data brokers frequently purchase and sell on the commercial marketplace.

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