The Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale Act, H.R.4639, originally introduced in the Senate by Senator Ron Wyden in 2021, has now made the important and historic step of passing the U.S. House of Representatives. In an era when it often seems like Congress cannot pass much-needed privacy protections, this is a victory for vulnerable populations, people who want to make sure their location data is private, and the hard-working activists and organizers who have pushed for the passage of this bill.

Everyday, your personal information is being harvested by your smart phone applications, sold to data brokers, and used by advertisers hoping to sell you things. But what safeguards prevent the government from shopping in that same data marketplace? Mobile data regularly bought and sold, like your geolocation, is information that law enforcement or intelligence agencies would normally have to get a warrant to acquire. But it does not require a warrant for law enforcement agencies to just buy the data. The U.S. government has been using its purchase of this information as a loophole for acquiring personal information on individuals without a warrant.

Now is the time to close that loophole.

At EFF, we’ve been talking about the need to close the databroker loophole for years. We even launched a massive investigation into the data broker industry which revealed Fog Data Science, a company that has claimed in marketing materials that it has “billions” of data points about “over 250 million” devices and that its data can be used to learn about where its subjects work, live, and their associates. We found close to 20 law enforcement agents used or were offered this tool.

It’s time for the Senate to close this incredibly dangerous and invasive loophole. If police want a personor a whole community’slocation data, they should have to get a warrant to see it. 

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