ACLU Condemns Senate Vote on Bill Forcing Internet Companies to Spy on Users for the DEA

The Cooper Davis Act would require tech companies to report users they suspect of drug activity to the government

July 13, 2023 1:00 pm

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The Senate Judiciary Committee voted out of committee today a controversial bill that purports to address the sale of methamphetamine, fentanyl, and “counterfeit substances” by co-opting online services to report the alleged or suspected creation, manufacture, or distribution of these substances—or possession with intent to create, manufacture, or distribute them.

The ACLU and a coalition of civil rights and civil liberties groups explained the litany of privacy and free speech concerns with this bill in a letter to the committee earlier this year. As the letter lays out, rather than meaningfully addressing the public health crisis caused by such substances, this bill would instead incentivize online services to search through user content and effectively deputize them as agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), undermining the Fourth Amendment and the Stored Communications Act, likely with disproportionate effects on people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized communities.

In response to Senate Judiciary’s vote, Cody Venzke, senior policy counsel at ACLU, issued the following statement:

“The Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote today to advance the Cooper Davis Act to the Senate floor is a misstep. The bill will expand law enforcement’s access to user data, undermine the protections of Constitutional statutory warrant requirements, and exacerbate existing racial disparities in criminal drug enforcement. Platforms are not equipped to be deputized as DEA informants, and this bill will likely cause more harm than it heals. We urge the full Senate to reject this approach.”

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