Lawmakers propose bill to ban feds from buying people's private data

Bipartisan lawmakers proposed 'The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act.'

April 21, 2021, 4:55 PM

A bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers proposed a new bill Wednesday that would ban federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies from buying user data collected from smartphones, social media and other digital sources from third-party data brokers.

The “The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act” calls for government agencies to obtain a court order before accessing personal information collected online, including geolocation information and electronic surveillance data.

PHOTO: Sen. Ron Wyden speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 13, 2021.
Sen. Ron Wyden speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 13, 2021.
Erin Scott/Reuters

“[The bill] closes the legal loophole that allows data brokers to sell Americans’ personal information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies without any court oversight,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said in the press release Wednesday.

“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 added.

Clearview AI, a facial-recognition software company, was specifically named as a data collector whose data should be protected from being sold to the government due to privacy concerns, according to the press release.

The New York Times reported in January 2020 that Clearview AI’s system includes an extensive database of more than three billion images that have been taken from social media accounts and millions of other websites without user’s knowledge.

Although the software has reportedly been used to solve some crimes, along with data privacy concerns, it could potentially lead to the misidentification of suspects as well, according to The New York Times.

Hoan Ton-That, the CEO of Clearview AI, said in a statement to ABC News that the company “only collects publicly available photos from the open internet that are accessible from any computer anywhere in the world.”

“While we haven’t seen this particular bill yet, we plan to carefully review it and provide feedback if given the opportunity,” the statement read in part.

PHOTO: Sen. Rand Paul speaks during a a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 23, 2021.
Sen. Rand Paul speaks during a a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 23, 2021.
Greg Nash/AP

The bill, introduced by Wyden and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, is sponsored by 18 other members of the Senate.

“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 in the press release.

PHOTO: House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler is pictured at the start of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, June 11, 2019, in Washington.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler is pictured at the start of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, June 11, 2019, in Washington.
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York and House Committee Chair Rep. Zoe Lonfgren of California also introduced the House’s version of the act on Wednesday, according to the press release.

The House Judiciary Committee will examine the legislation in the coming months, Nadler said in the statement.

“The principle here is simple,” he said. “The government should not be allowed to purchase its way around the rules Congress has enacted to protect the privacy of American citizens.”

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