04.21.21

Daines Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Stop the Sale of Montanans’ Personal Information

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines today introduced the bipartisan “The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act,” which would stop the government from circumventing the 4th Amendment by buying Montanans’ personal information from data brokers.

“It’s simple, Montanans’ private information is not for sale. We must close the loopholes that allow the federal government to circumvent the 4th Amendment and buy Americans’ personal data,” Daines said.

“The Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act” closes the legal loophole that allows data brokers to sell Americans’ personal information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies without any court oversight – in contrast to the strict rules for phone companies, social media sites and other businesses that have direct relationships with consumers.

Daines introduced this bill with Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and 17 other senators.

“Doing business online doesn’t amount to giving the government permission to track your every movement or rifle through the most personal details of your life,” Wyden said. “There’s no reason information scavenged by data brokers should be treated differently than the same data held by your phone company or email provider. This bill closes that legal loophole and ensures that the government can’t use its credit card to end-run the Fourth Amendment.”

“The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure ensures that the liberty of every American cannot be violated on the whims, or financial transactions, of every government officer,” Paul said. “This critical legislation will put an end to the government’s practice of buying its way around the Bill of Rights by purchasing the personal and location data of everyday Americans. Enacting the Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale Act will not only stop this gross abuse of privacy, but also stands for the fundamental principle that government exists to protect, not trade away, individual rights.” 

“I think that Americans would be surprised to know that federal law does not already properly safeguard consumers’ private information from government agencies. The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act closes existing legal loopholes and would require the government to secure a court order before buying Americans’ data, such as location data from our smart phones, from data brokers. In today’s world, the amount of information we share with companies continues to exponentially increase. The federal government simply should not have a constitutionally suspect backdoor to harvest this information without judicial checks in place. This bipartisan bill would close that backdoor and provide Americans the privacy protections our Founders envisioned when they penned the Constitution,” Leahy said.

“The federal government should not be allowed to skirt the Fourth Amendment’s existing warrant requirements, and surveillance laws by purchasing Americans’ data from third-party brokers. This legislation will protect the civil liberties of Americans by closing loopholes in existing law,” Lee said.

A broad coalition of civil liberties, civil rights, technology and free speech groups endorsed the legislation, including: Access Now, Accountable Tech, American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Prosperity, Brennan Center for Justice, Center for Democracy and Technology, Color of Change, Demand Progress, Due Process Institute, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Freedom of the Press Foundation, FreedomWorks, Free Press Action, Interactive Advertising Bureau, Just Futures Law, MediaJustice, Mijente, Mozilla, NAACP, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Network Advertising Initiative, Open Technology Institute at New America, Open The Government, PEN America, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Public Knowledge, Project for Privacy, Surveillance Accountability and Restore the Fourth.

Statements of Support:

Sean Vitka, Senior Policy Counsel, Demand Progress: “The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act is critical foundation for the right to privacy in the digital age — an age where data brokers like Clearview.AI are scrambling to vacuum up every record of every person connected to the internet. Given that the government is apparently paying these suspicious companies millions upon millions of dollars to obtain our telephone records, our location records, and perhaps even our internet browsing records, this is urgent legislation that is necessary to stave off an unthinkable blanket of surveillance across this country.”

Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, Senior Campaign Director, Color Of Change: “The Fourth Amendment Is Not for Sale Act is a critical step forward in ensuring the protection of Black residents and marginalized communities, who continue to be disproportionately exposed to the dangers of unchecked policing and government surveillance. For far too long, mobile app developers and data brokers have operated in unison with law enforcement and intelligence agencies to prey on Black people and increase their profit margins. We thank Senator Wyden for his leadership on this legislation to combat the unfettered abuse of surveillance technology and we will continue to advocate for oversight and regulation of tech platforms that put Black people at risk.”

Bob Goodlatte, former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Senior Policy Advisor to the Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability: “Under current law, the government cannot compel tech and phone companies to disclose our information without a court order. There's no reason data brokers should get a special loophole. Everyone who stands up for liberty and Constitutional rights should support this commonsense, bipartisan legislation to close the data broker loophole.”

Sandra Fulton, Free Press Action Government Relations Director: “Federal agents are exploiting a huge loophole in privacy laws. They’re buying data from unregulated and exploitative data brokers to track immigrants and other vulnerable communities and create a massive public-private surveillance mechanism. We applaud Senator Wyden and Chairman Nadler for their leadership in introducing the Fourth Amendment Is Not for Sale Act to shut down these dangerous practices.”