Sunday, July 21, 2024

ICE Has Been Stealing Data from Thousands of People, Reports Shows

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been using a surveillance system designed to spy on most people residing in the U.S., according to a two-year investigation by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology. The report found that ICE had been operating the surveillance system with minimal public oversight, often violating state privacy laws.

ICE has been widely criticized by privacy law experts and civil rights activists over the years for its surveillance tactics. However, the Georgetown report called “American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century,” shows that the agency has gone beyond its duties to enforce immigration and turned into a domestic surveillance agency.

ICE now has access to data that includes:

  • Driver’s license data for three of every four adults living in the US.
  • Data drawn from the utility records of 75% of adults, covering more than 218 million unique utility consumers in all 50 states.
  • Information on the movements of drivers in cities that contain 75% of the US population.
  • Facial recognition technology drawn from the driver’s license photos of at least a third of all adults.

ICE also spent an estimated $2.8 billion between 2008 and 2021 on surveillance, data collection and data-sharing initiatives, according to the Georgetown report.

“I was alarmed to discover that ICE has built up a sweeping surveillance infrastructure capable of tracking almost anyone, seemingly at any time. ICE has ramped up its surveillance capacities in near-complete secrecy and impunity, sidestepping limitations and flying under the radar of lawmakers,” said Nina Wang, a Policy Associate at the Center on Privacy & Technology and a co-author of the study.

Wang said that even “sanctuary” states like California are affected by the agency’s surveillance tactics. ICE has been using third parties — such as utility companies and other non-law enforcement outfits — to gather data on thousands of Californians, a state that’s full of immigrants and borders Mexico.

​​“Even in states that have tried to protect immigrants’ data, ICE has found ways to sidestep some of the strongest restrictions on the kinds of records that it can access, as well as regulations on when and how and on whom it can pull this information. As a result, anyone’s information can end up in the hands of immigration enforcement simply because they’ve applied for driver’s licenses, driven on the roads or signed up with their local utilities to get access to heat, water and electricity,” Wang concluded.

LA Times