July 27, 2023

Wyden, Paul and Bipartisan Senators Reintroduce the Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act

Wyden-Paul Bill Protects Americans’ Personal Data from Unnecessary Government Surveillance, Ensures the Government Does Not Buy its Way Around the Fourth Amendment

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., reintroduced the Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale Act today, following the bill’s unanimous passage in the House Judiciary Committee last week. 

The bill, first introduced in 2021, blocks the government from purchasing information about Americans that would otherwise require a warrant.

The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii,  Mike Lee, R-Utah, Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Jon Tester, D-Mont. 

“Americans of all political stripes know their Constitutional rights shouldn’t disappear in the digital age. The bipartisan Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act puts protections against government agencies purchasing their data into black-letter law,” Wyden said. “Even during one of the most polarized political environments of my lifetime, the House Judiciary Committee passed our bill on a unanimous vote. There is a deep well of support for bolstering Americans’ privacy, and I will look for every available avenue to advance protections for Americans’ personal data, both in this bill and omnibus surveillance legislation this fall.” 

“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,” said Dr. Paul. “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.” 

“It’s more important than ever that our data is protected and not collected and sold to government agencies or anyone else,” said Senator Murray. “Our bill is simple: it would make the government obtain a court order if they want to access someone’s online data—just as they are required to do if that data is held by phone companies or social media sites. We need to do a lot more to protect Americans’ privacy rights, and closing this legal loophole is an important step in the right direction.”

Reps. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Ken Buck, R-Colo., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., cosponsored the legislation in the House. 

The Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale Act:

  • Requires the government to get a court order to compel 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, preventing the government from buying data from Clearview.AI.
  • Extends existing privacy laws to infrastructure firms that own data cables & cell towers.
  • Closes loopholes that would permit the intelligence community to buy or otherwise acquire metadata about Americans’ international calls, texts and emails to family and friends abroad, without any FISA Court review.
  • Ensures that intelligence agencies acquiring data on Americans do so within the framework of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and that when acquiring Americans’ location data, web browsing records and search history, intelligence agencies obtain probable cause orders. This language is similar to language that was in the 2020 Wyden-Daines amendment to legislation to reform Section 215.
  • 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.

Wyden’s oversight of the data broker industry has uncovered rampant abuses of Americans’ privacy and security, including the sale of Americans’ location information to prisons, local law enforcement and bounty hunters, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s warrantless use of American’s location information, and the Internal Revenue Service’s use of warrantless location information to look for tax cheats. Investigations by Motherboard and the Wall Street Journal have revealed that U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security, among other agencies, have used commercial databases without warrants in their investigations.

Read the full bill text here. A summary is available here.


Press Contact: Keith Chu