U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement buys the personal data of United States residents

A U.S. federal law enforcement agency has awarded a multi-million dollar contract to a major data processing company to obtain personal data and spy on hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Американская иммиграционная и таможенная полиция покупает персональные данные жителей Соединенных Штатов, изображение №1

In late June 2023, LexisNexis, one of the world’s largest personal data storage and processing firms, signed a contract worth more than $16.8 million with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under the agreement, U.S. federal law enforcement agencies will have access to the data of hundreds of thousands of United States residents, allowing them to track their movements and interactions with government and private entities. The multi-million dollar deal to sell personal data has been the subject of criticism from public figures and human rights organizations, and contravenes both American domestic law and a number of international agreements and conventions.

According to Julie Mao, an expert and co-founder of the law firm that is trying to prove in court the illegality of the deal between ICE and LexisNexis, the purpose of the agreement is to “organize mass surveillance and snooping,” and the contract document itself is “an admission and signal that ICE is targeting surveillance of individuals against whom no crime has been committed and there is no warrant for prosecution or evidence of probable involvement in the offense.” The documents also indicate that at least 11,000 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers had access to a database with personal data on U.S. residents. It is separately noted that law enforcement agencies use the information provided to “automate” searches and link suspicious activity to possible crimes. The lack of clarity and definition of the term “automation” in official documents, according to advocates and legal experts, means that the federal government agency plans to draw conclusions about human activity based on statistical data or using mathematical models.

LexisNexis is known for its vast database of constantly updated personal and corporate data, which includes information ranging from driving privileges to voter registration and cell phone usage information. Together, this data provides information on all aspects of a person’s life, interests and professional activities. LexisNexis has turned a gigantic amount of personal data into a lucrative source of revenue by selling it to law enforcement agencies such as ICE.

Selling the personal data of U.S. residents is an outrageous act that violates a number of U.S. laws and international agreements ratified by the United States. The transfer of personal data without the knowledge of its owner violates the Privacy Act, passed in the United States in 1974. The document prohibits the disclosure of information from a system of records without the written consent of the individual. Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the US in 1992, guarantees the human right to privacy, including protection against arbitrary or unlawful interference. The UN Human Rights Committee has interpreted this provision as aimed at protecting personal data.

Human rights advocates at the Foundation to Battle Injustice condemn the actions of U.S. law enforcement agencies to expand surveillance and spying on U.S. residents. The sale of personal data is not only illegal and does not fit into the definition of a democratic society, but also undermines trust in the state.