ICE has created a surveillance system that can be used to spy on almost every American: investigation

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operates a digital surveillance net through which the agency can access information about nearly anyone in the United States, a two-year investigation by Center researchers revealed on Tuesday. on Privacy & Technology of Georgetown Law.

The study, titled American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century– found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “has built its oversight system by crossing legal and ethical lines, leveraging the trust people place in government agencies and essential service providers, and by exploiting the vulnerability of people who voluntarily give up their information to reunite with their families.”

Nina Wang, policy associate at the Center on Privacy & Technology and author of the report, said The Guardian that even the study researchers were shocked by the extent of the surveillance.

“I was alarmed to discover how easily federal immigration officials can extract detailed records from the most intimate corners of all of our lives,” she said. “These tactics open massive side doors around existing privacy protections, and many lawmakers still have no idea.”

The study researchers wrote that “since its inception in 2003, ICE has not only strengthened its own ability to use surveillance to effect evictions, but has also played a key role in broader federal government efforts. to amass as much information as possible about all of our lives.”

“By accessing state and local government digital archives and purchasing databases containing billions of data points from private companies,” they added, “ICE has created a surveillance infrastructure that allows it to derive detailed records on almost anyone, seemingly at any time.”

According to the study:

In its arrest and deportation efforts, ICE has, without any judicial, legislative or public oversight, accessed data sets containing personal information about the vast majority of people living in the United States, including records may end up in the hands of immigration authorities simply for applying for driving licenses; drive on the roads; or register with their local utilities for access to heat, water and electricity.

Despite the incredible reach and obvious civil rights implications of ICE’s surveillance practices, the agency has managed to shroud these practices in near-total secrecy, avoiding enforcement of even a handful of laws and policies. that could be invoked to impose limitations.

The study found that ICE used facial recognition technology to search the driver’s license photos of about one in three adults in the United States. The agency also has the ability to access Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) data from 70% of adults and track vehicle movements in cities where 70% of the adult population lives.

When three out of four adults in the United States “connected gas, electricity, telephone, or the Internet in a new home, ICE was able to automatically learn their new address,” the authors wrote. “Almost all of this has been done without a warrant and in secret…Federal and state lawmakers, for the most part, have yet to face this reality.”

A review of ICE’s spending from 2008 to 2021 found the agency’s oversight spending soared nearly 500%, from $71 million to $388 million. The agency spent more than $1.3 billion on geolocation technology, $96 million on biometrics, $97 million on private data brokers, and $569 million on data analytics during the same period.

ICE also paid $189 million to CIA-funded software company Palantir Technologies for custom programs that allow agents to link public and private databases so they can “visualize an interconnected web of mined data.” almost every aspect of an individual’s life”.

The report urges ICE to “end all surveillance programs, including the use of facial recognition on DMV data for immigration enforcement” and to “cease using the water, heat, light, telephone and internet records to carry out evictions”.

It further recommends that Congress reform immigration laws to “drastically reduce” deportations, prevent ICE from using DMV data as a “deportation goldmine”, and “conduct aggressive oversight”. of ICE oversight.

The authors also call on federal, state and local authorities to protect people who trust them with personal information, noting that of the 17 jurisdictions that allow undocumented residents to apply for driver’s licenses, only seven have passed laws to protect against warrantless ICE searches. and facial scans of driver data and photos.

In addition, the researchers implore states to prohibit the use of phone records and public services for immigration enforcement purposes and verify ICE access to databases.

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