Press Releases

Demand Progress Endorses the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act

The Bipartisan Bill Prohibits the Government from Lawlessly Purchasing Bulk Location Information and Other Data About People in the United States from Data Brokers

CONTACT: Sean Vitka, sean@demandprogress, ‪(570) 798-7678‬
Today, the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act was introduced by Senators Wyden (D-OR), Paul (R-KY), Leahy (D-VT), Lee (R-UT), Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY), and 15 other Senators, as well as House Judiciary Chairman Nadler (D-NY). The bipartisan legislation would stop the federal government from lawlessly purchasing information about people in the United States from data brokers that it cannot directly obtain without a court order.

The following statement may be attributed to Sean Vitka, senior policy counsel for Demand Progress:

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have an unhealthy interest in the personal information of people in the United States — which their historical abuses have repeatedly demonstrated is dangerous to our democracy. It is disturbing and outrageous that intelligence and law enforcement agencies are circumventing Constitutional and statutory protections by purchasing information about people in the United States from data brokers.

The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act would put a stop to this most recent effort by the government to do an end run around the Constitution and wrongfully obtain information about people in the United States. The founders meant it when they protected our rights against warrantless searches. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies must come to understand that the American people are off limits to warrantless mass surveillance, no matter how it is done.

Many federal agencies are bypassing the Constitutional and statutory requirements protecting information about people in the United States, including their internet activity and location information, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Internal Revenue Service. Instead of obtaining information directly from companies like Facebook and Twitter with a court order, these agencies are purchasing it from data brokers, which are third-parties that obtain and sell information about countless people in the United States.

Neither Congress nor the courts authorized these agencies to collect this information and the practice circumvents Constitutional and statutory privacy protections. Nonetheless, agencies have secretly advanced convoluted legal determinations that they can purchase “bulk commercial geolocation data” and other information. The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act would put an end to these unseemly practices.

Sean Vitka, senior policy counsel for Demand Progress, continued:
“Benjamin Franklin said we have a republic, ‘if we can keep it.’ We applaud the tireless efforts of Senators Wyden, Daines, Leahy, Lee, and Paul, and Representatives Davidson, Jayapal, and Lofgren for using the legislative process to protect the rights of every person in the United States while ferreting out the government’s continued misconduct and its attempts to conceal agencies’ wrongdoing. This legislation is foundational to the future of privacy.”

In one instance, a data broker scraped sensitive location information through a Muslim prayer app that had been downloaded over 98 million times. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ ability to engage in mass domestic surveillance has regained prominence over the last two decades after the Bush administration began widespread, unlawful domestic surveillance without Congressional authorization. That surveillance was ultimately shifted under the USA Patriot Act and successor legislation, which were secretly and illegally abused to enable, among other things, bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

Legislation to renew those misused laws failed last Congress when it became clear it failed to protect Americans’ privacy, and several provisions of the Patriot Act have remained expired for more than one year. Like the popular Daines-Wyden amendment from that debate, the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act would protect Internet browsing and search histories from warrantless government surveillance.

Demand Progress Education Fund (DPEF) has been leading this fight for years. DPEF and the FreedomWorks Foundation published extensive research on the government’s claims of inherent executive authority to conduct domestic mass surveillance at, including this timeline of nearly constant surveillance abuse by the government since 2001. DPEF and allies detailed the basis for concerns that lawless domestic surveillance is continuing last August, and also joined with former House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, former Senate Intelligence member Mark Udall, and the Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability to FOIA for information about ongoing government surveillance last October.


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