Amid Spying Fight, House Passes Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act

“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,” said one advocate.

By Jessica Corbett. Published 4-17-2024 by Common Dreams

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act on April 17, 2024. Image: PickPik

While applauding the U.S. House of Representatives’ bipartisan passage of a bill to ensure that “law enforcement and intelligence agencies can’t do an end-run around the Constitution by buying information from data brokers” on Wednesday, privacy advocates highlighted that Congress is trying to extend and expand a long-abused government spying program.

The House voted 219-199 for Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act (FANFSA), which won support from 96 Democrats and 123 Republicans, including the lead sponsor, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio). Named for the constitutional amendment that protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, H.R. 4639 would close what campaigners call the data broker loophole.

“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,” said Free Press Action policy counsel Jenna Ruddock. “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.”

“We’re grateful that the House passed these vital and popular protections,” she added. “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.”

Wednesday’s vote followed the House sending the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act to the Senate. H.R. 7888 would reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows for warrantless spying on noncitizens abroad but also sweeps up Americans’ data.

The House notably included an amendment forcing a wide range of individuals and businesses to cooperate with government spying operations but rejected an amendment that would have added a warrant requirement to the bill, which the Senate could vote on as soon as Thursday.

Noting those decisions on the FISA reauthorization legislation, Ruddock stressed that “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.”

“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,” she argued. “That means passing FANFSA and reforming Section 702 authority—and prioritizing everyone’s First and Fourth Amendment rights.”

Jeramie Scott, senior counsel and director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Project on Surveillance Oversight, also praised the House’s FANFSA passage on Wednesday.

“The passage of the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale underscores the extent to which reining in abusive warrantless surveillance is a bipartisan issue,” Scott said. “We urge the Senate to take up this measure and close the data broker loophole.”

Kia Hamadanchy, senior policy counsel at ACLU, similarly said Wednesday that “the bipartisan passage of this bill is a flashing warning sign to the government that if it wants our data, it must get a warrant.”

Hamadanchy added that “we hope this vote puts a fire under the Senate to protect their constituents and rein in the government’s warrantless surveillance of Americans, once and for all.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a critic of the pending 702 bill and FANFSA’s lead sponsor in the upper chamber, called the the House’s Wednesday vote “a huge win for privacy” and said that “now it’s time for the Senate to follow suit.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

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