The Markup: Meet SmartLINK, the App Tracking Nearly a Quarter Million Immigrants

June 27, 2022

“There is a concern over what privacy protections BI is implementing for that data, and there’s not a lot of transparency over any conditions ICE has placed onto BI Inc. regarding the storage of that data, how that data gets used,” said Dana Khabbaz, a law fellow focusing on surveillance and immigration issues at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Experts are also apprehensive about the consumer data industry capitalizing on SmartLINK’s information, Khabbaz said, including location data. “There is a growing trend of law enforcement agencies purchasing that data from data brokers for surveillance purposes,” Khabbaz said. And she wonders who else might be getting access to SmartLINK data.

She’s particularly worried about how the photos immigrants sent are being used, given the lack of regulation around facial recognition technology. “It’s concerning that ICE is adopting the use of this technology in an immigration enforcement context,” she said, “including a context where people involved in this program don’t have an option to opt out of it.”

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