Researchers warn of ICE surveillance tactics on immigrants

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to get the NSA and FBI to compete for their money as the main providers of U.S. surveillance. While ICE has often made headlines during the Trump administration, participate Amid the president’s sometimes ruthless so-called “zero tolerance” immigration policy, a new report details the scale of the agency’s growing digital surveillance infrastructure, a bulky and expensive device built over more than a decade.

According to a report published by the Georgetown Center for Legal Privacy and Technology titled “American pull net. During those years, the agency reportedly gobbled up a trove of large digital databases from state, local and even private sources to create “a surveillance infrastructure that made it possible to extract detailed dossier from almost anyone at any time.” The report, which collects hundreds of FOIA requests compiled over two years, offers some of the clearest glimpses yet into ICE’s growing status as a domestic surveillance powerhouse.

The report’s authors claim that new documents show evidence that ICE built its surveillance capabilities about five years earlier than previously thought, with ICE’s first facial recognition searches dating back to the final moments of George W. Bush’s presidency. Like colleagues at other U.S. spy-heavy three-letter agencies, the report marks a significant increase in data ICE has collected since the Sept. 11 attacks. The vast new datasets obtained include more traditional data, such as call records and utility customer information, as well as more modern digital age markers, such as geolocation information and social media posts.

“Access to these new datasets, along with the power of algorithmic tools for sorting, matching, searching, and analysis, greatly expands the scope and regularity of ICE surveillance,” the report reads.

The agency’s use of facial recognition has flourished since the Bush era. According to the report, one in three U.S. adults has an ICE facial recognition scan of a driver’s photo. ICE reportedly has driver license data for about 75 percent of U.S. adults, and can use utility records to automatically detect new addresses for about three-quarters of adults when they move, the report noted. ICE has also not slowed down its pursuit of facial file disclose Last week it was revealed that the agency intends to spend $7.2 million on new facial recognition surveillance tools to track and monitor immigrants.

In statement sent to Gizmodo, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden expressed concerns over the data available to ICE, which he criticized as having “long histories of abusing their authority.”

“I’ve been sounding the alarm for years that shady data brokers and unscrupulous companies like Clearview are enabling the warrantless bulk surveillance of Americans,” Wyden said. “This report is another reminder of the urgent need to pass my Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act, which would require law-enforcement to get a warrant to obtain Americans’ personal data instead of end-running the Fourth Amendment by purchasing Americans’ private information. The government shouldn’t be able to use its credit card to get around Americans’ Constitutional rights.”

In an interview with Gizmodo, Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology Research Fellow and report co-author Allison McDonald said colleagues were especially interested in focusing on ICE because of its underlooked overlap linking immigrants’ rights and digital privacy spheres.

“ICE is right at the center of these two areas,” McDonald said. “They are not really talked about much by those focused on surveillance, but they are gathering more and more data to do exactly the things that the people who are concerned about the FBI and NSA are doing already.” Despite spending over a decade growing its data collection power on the sidelines, McDonald said there’s still a “vast lack of transparency” surrounding ICE’s use of personal data.

ICE Possesses a Mountain of Personal Data

Much of ICE’s personal data was actually willingly relinquished by U.S. adults to state and local agencies in exchange for essential services. Only later would ICE access much of that data and often without needing a warrant, the report notes. Data collected by state institutions often finds its way onto ICE desks in ways the report’s authors claim lack meaningful transparency or oversight. Though some states like Washington Although steps have been taken to limit cooperation with ICE, the report said the agency is still finding creative ways to access the data.

“In many cases, lawmakers advocating for the driving privilege card are unaware of the link that already exists between ICE and the DMV,” MacDonald said. “If you don’t understand all the different ways ICE can access data, the restrictions won’t be effective. You need to focus on what the data is used for, not specifically saying that the database can’t be used.”

At the federal level, the authors point to how the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the IRS’ use of individual taxpayer identification numbers can also act as digital “bait,” enticing undocumented immigrants to confiscate data that ICE may ultimately use against them. them. On its own, this data deluge may seem like a mess, but thanks to advances in machine learning and classification tools from companies like Palantir, founded by Peter Thiel, ICE has the ability to spot volatile gems in the data quagmire.

    Immigrant detainees pass through an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Florence, Arizona, USA, February 28, 2013

Immigrant detainees pass through an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Florence, Arizona, USA, February 28, 2013
photo: John Moore (Getty Images)

Among some of the report’s more troubling findings, the authors claim ICE used facial recognition scans to deport undocumented immigrants for their driver’s licenses in at least six states. About 17 states currently allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. MacDonald said that while legislation aimed at licensing undocumented immigrants has typically come under more politically progressive leadership, it has unintended consequences of providing data to ICE and ultimately weakening immigration’s role in the U.S. Institutional trust.

Only a quarter of U.S. adults in Pew study polling They said last year they believed the government would do the right thing, one of the lowest levels of confidence since the company began raising the issue in the 1960s. This unease and lack of trust may cause some immigrants to feel uncomfortable providing data and unable to seek social services they or their children may desperately need.

“This has devastating consequences for the community,” MacDonald said. “The reason we want driver privilege cards is that they make the roads safer, but if people can’t trust these agencies to keep their data well, they’re not going to get their cars. If they think their doctors are going to turn around Send their data to ICE and they won’t go to the hospital.”

McDonald and her co-authors are calling on Congress to update the Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), requiring ICE to obtain authorization before using DMV data for immigration purposes. The authors would also like to see ICE stop buying large datasets from brokers.

The authors also propose another solution that runs counter to the status quo in U.S. immigration policy: drastically reducing ICE’s ability to enforce deportations and creating pathways for more undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship.

“While these reforms do not address surveillance per se, they are the most direct way to weaken ICE’s surveillance authority,” the authors write.

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