The RESTRICT Act does not grant the government access to data from home devices
Viral social media posts claim the RESTRICT Act would give the government access to personal data from American security or smart devices. It doesn’t.
On March 7, a bipartisan group of 13 Senators, including Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. John Thune (RS.D.), presented the RESTRICTION Act in Congress amid concerns from some lawmakers that popular social media app TikTok could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans. If signed into law, the RESTRICT Act could potentially ban TikTok in the United States.
Since the bill was presented several viral Social media posts have claimed that the US government’s RESTRICT Act could also give access to Americans’ personal information from their home devices such as Ring security cameras, Amazon Echo and Google Nest.
Does the federal government’s RESTRICT Act grant access to data from your home devices?
No, the RESTRICT Act does not grant the federal government access to data from your home devices.
WHAT WE FOUND
The RESTRICTION Act does not give the federal government access to the personally identifiable information found on individual Americans’ home security or smart devices, according to both the bill’s supporters and critics of the legislation. Instead, the law allows the government to investigate potential national security threats by analyzing foreign-owned tech companies, not individual users in the US whose data is protected by the constitution.
Many of the viral social media posts that have shared this claim focus on Section 5 of the RESTRICT Act. According to the Bill’s textSection 5 directs the Secretary of Commerce to review wireless networks, various access points, cloud storage and other types of technology made by countries that the US considers foreign adversaries, such as China, Russia, Cuba, Iran and North Korea or Venezuela to ensure it is not used to spy on Americans or steal their data.
If the Commerce Secretary determines that the technology threatens national security, then the bill says Congress must be publicly notified. Legislators could then decide to impose data protection or corporate transparency requirements on the product in question, or ban it altogether.
In an email, a spokesman for Senator Mark Warner’s office told VERIFY that claims regarding the federal government having access to Americans’ home devices were “false.” Also on March 31 Warner addressed some of what he calls “misconceptions” about the RESTRICT Act in a thread on Twitter.
“This law gives no power to the government to pursue what you are looking for! In fact, it aims to counter foreign surveillance by authoritarian nations.” Warner said. “This law addresses large, systemic threats to our national security – not individual users.”
Even organizations that defy the law like that American Civil Rights Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)agree that the RESTRICT Act would not give the government access to Americans’ private data on their home devices.
“Is the RESTRICT Act a surveillance law that would give the government access to your devices? Not exactly,” the EFF wrote in one April 4 report about the bill.
EFF explains that under the RESTRICT Act, the Secretary of Commerce could request information from a company owned by a foreign adversary if the latter is under investigation. This company could be required to share some user data with certain government agencies. But the EFF says “there are some important confidentiality requirements that protect this type of data.”
The ACLU also informed VERIFY that the Fourth Amendment already protects the personal information of most Americans from the federal government.
As of April 7, Congress has taken no action to pass the RESTRICT Act since it was introduced in March. US Secretary of Commerce Gina RaimondoNational Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco have approved the bill.