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A Loophole in the Fourth Amendment: The Government’s Unregulated Purchase of Intimate Health Data

By January 1, 2024February 25th, 2024No Comments

Abstract: Companies use everyday applications and personal devices to collect deeply personal information about a user’s body and health. While this “intimate health data” includes seemingly innocuous information about fitness activities and basic vitals, it also includes extremely private information about the user’s health, such as chronic conditions and reproductive health. However, consumers have no established rights over the intimate health data shared on their devices. Believing that these technologies are created for their benefit, consumers hand over the most intimate aspects of their lives through health-related applications relying on the promise that their data will remain private. Today, the intimate health data of unaware consumers is collected and sold to third-party data brokers who then repackage the data, label it, and sell it to the highest bidder: advertisers, corporations, and most concerning of all—the government and law enforcement agencies. This ability for governmental entities to simply purchase intimate health data from thirdparty data brokers violates the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

To discourage the overreach of arbitrary law enforcement, the Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. Without a warrant, governmental entities may purchase intimate health data from third-party data brokers, constituting an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. This Comment examines the use of third-party data brokers by government agencies to collect and analyze intimate health data. In doing so, this Comment advocates for greater accountability in government data collection practices and proposes legislative solutions to regulating the government’s purchase of intimate health data.

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