Coda Story: Immigrating to the US? ICE wants your biometrics

May 1, 2023

Privacy experts also told me they feared the data collected through Alternatives to Detention could be disseminated to other databases. The privacy assessment acknowledges that there is a risk that the information from the electronic monitoring program could be stored in other databases run by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE. It alleges that this risk, however, is “partially mitigated” by referring to a DHS policy that states that information is shared within the agency in accordance with the law and only for authorized purposes because officials “must have timely access to all relevant information for which they have a need-to-know to successfully perform their duties.” Jake Wiener, an attorney and surveillance expert with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says this portion of the policy ostensibly acknowledges that “instead of being mitigated, this risk is an open, ongoing, and harmful practice.”

This is no small matter, Wiener points out, given recent reporting from WIRED that found that ICE employees and contractors abused their access to internal databases to search for information about former partners and coworkers, provided their login information to family members and even shared privileged information with criminals in exchange for cash. The assessment, Wiener says, “fails to consider that abuse of data is a near-certainty at ICE, and that putting that data in more hands by sending it to DHS’s far-reaching databases increases the likelihood of harm.”

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