U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has built a vast digital surveillance system that gives it access to the personal details of almost every person in the country, a two-year investigation by Georgetown University law center has found. The Center on Privacy & Technology released one of the most comprehensive reviews of ICE activities, concluding that the federal agency has strayed well beyond its duties as an immigration body to become what is in effect a domestic surveillance agency, The Guardian reports. Operating with minimal public oversight, ICE has amassed a formidable armory of digital capabilities that allows its agents to “pull detailed dossiers on nearly anyone, seemingly at any time.” The vast mountain of data to which ICE has access includes driver’s license data for three of every four adults, data drawn from the utility records of 75 percent of adults, information on the movements of drivers in cities with 75 percent of the population, and facial recognition technology drawn from the driver’s license photos of at least a third of all adults.
The Georgetown researchers based their report, American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century, on hundreds of freedom of information requests and a review of more than 100,000 ICE spending transactions. The documents show the extent to which the agency’s surveillance has expanded beyond sharing information with law enforcement agencies to exploiting an array of public and private databases.
The agency operates what the Guardian calls "an enormous dragnet of information stored by state and local government, utility companies, social media platforms and private data brokers. The end result is that ICE enjoys almost universal reach, with its intelligence weaponized through the use of powerful algorithmic tools for searching and analyzing data." Almost all of that activity is done in the absence of warrants and in secret, beyond the purview of federal and state authorities