Thousands of ICE employees can access license plate reader data, emails show

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service allows thousands of employees to access a controversial license plate database with questionable legal guarantees to prevent abuse, the American Civil Liberties Union said today, as it published thousands of pages of documents from the agency. , which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and include ICE internal emails and policies, detail the agency's access to a massive private database that civil liberties advocates have criticized as excessively invasive The database, run by a company called Vigilant Solutions, allows authorities to track cars in comparison with previously compiled license plate data, giving the police a way to closely monitor the movement. of the vehicles.

Police could expect access to billions of license plate scans, with hundreds of millions more added each month. According to emails, a process of data exchange by the law makes the system "as easy as adding a friend to your favorite social media platform."

More than 9,200 ICE employees have access to the database, according to an email from last year, but there were few privacy guarantees, the ACLU said. The agency has access to up to five years of driver information, which the group describes as "a significant invasion of privacy and completely unnecessary to find someone's current location."

According to a report published in the documents, more than 80 local law enforcement agencies share information about the license plate with ICE. Those cities, the ACLU notes, include sanctuary cities such as Union City, California. The documents also showed a close relationship between ICE and local authorities, with a California detective who informally shares information with ICE.

The use of ICE from the license plate database was first revealed in early 2018, and quickly caused privacy issues. As ICE, under the Trump administration, expands the scope of immigrant deportation, the database provides a powerful tool to track people across the country. An ICE spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vasudha Talla, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, said in a statement that the practice was "appalling" and that "local law enforcement agencies should stop immediately sharing their residents' information with this agency. dishonest and immoral. "

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