In the wake of the whistleblower report revealing how Cambridge Analytica used the data of millions of Facebook users to run political campaigns, a new report shows that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also used Facebook data, this time to find and track suspected undocumented immigrants.
The report by the online publication The Intercept reveals how, at one point, ICE, the federal agency tasked with finding and deporting undocumented immigrants, used backend Facebook data to identify the login times of suspected undocumented immigrants on Facebook, along with the specific IP address used during each login. ICE agents allegedly combined this data with other information, such as phone records, to identify the specific location of the immigrant in question. The Intercept acquired this information from emails and documents produced through an FOI request.
The records shed light on one instance where ICE agents used social media and data analytics tools to locate targets. In February and March last year, ICE agents communicated with a detective from Las Cruces, New Mexico, requesting information about a certain person in the area. The agents were reportedly able to obtain Facebook data containing a log of login times and corresponding IP addresses of each login.
The report further states that an agent with Homeland Security Investigations, ICE’s investigative division, sent the team an email with a Facebook Business Record, which contained the target’s phone number and locations of each Facebook login.
While the Cambridge Analyticadata breach has raised issues about privacy on Facebook and the legality of using personally identifiable user data by third parties, it should be pointed out that the use of Facebook data by ICE to carry out the agency’s mandate is not illegal.
According to the Stored Communications Act, law enforcement may request information from third-party record holders, which include social networks like Facebook. Facebook confirmed this point, stating that “ICE sent valid legal process to us in an investigation said to involve an active child predator,” which prompted them to provide “data consistent with our publicly available data disclosure standards.”
Facebook, however, denies any knowledge of the data being used to identify violators of immigration law, stating that the social network company “does not provide ICE or any other law enforcement agency with any special data access to assist with the enforcement of immigration law.”
In any case, the investigative report by The Intercept shows that ICE is doubling down on its efforts to find and deport undocumented immigrants, using all available tools to carry out this mission. If you want to learn more about your rights should you be involved in ICE’s campaign, don’t hesitate to talk to the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm to discuss your options. Call our offices today to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.