Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reportedly developed a surveillance dragnet designed to spy on most people living in the United States, without the need for warrants, which has the possibility of breaching state privacy laws, such as those in California, according to a two-year investigation released Tuesday by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology.
Over time, privacy law experts and civil rights activists and attorneys have accused ICE of overreach in its surveillance tactics directed at immigrants and Americans alike, however the Georgetown report portrays an agency that has gone well beyond its immigration enforcement mandate, according to the report, called “American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century.”
The report outlines the extent into which ICE has gone to form a large-scale surveillance system that has reached into the lives into ordinary people living in the U.S. The report states the local laws are being skirted, these laws are in place to protect individuals’ privacy.
The report also alleges that ICE has turned to third-party outfits such as, utility companies, private databases and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in some states to gain information from hundreds of thousands of Americans and immigrants to target people for deportation.
ICE spent an estimated $2.8 billion between 2008 and 2021 on new surveillance, data collection and data-sharing initiatives, according to the Georgetown report. The large scale of ICE surveillance came as a shock even to the report’s authors.
“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, policy associate at the Center on Privacy & Technology and a co-author of the study.
Wang said that even “sanctuary” states such as California are affected by the agency’s sweeping dragnet, using their third-party method to access data on hundreds of thousands of Californians.
“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,” she said.
F”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.”
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