Emails sent by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials expose how ICE used social media and information gleaned by for-profit data brokers to track down and arrest an immigrant in Southern California. In the emails, which were disclosed in federal court filings, officials discussed the relationship status of the person, noting that he was “broken hearted,” according to Facebook posts, and confirmed his identity through pictures posted at his father’s birthday party.
ICE ultimately arrested the person after he “checked in” to a Home Depot on Facebook.
The emails are a rare glimpse into the ever-widening surveillance dragnet ICE uses to track down immigrants who are subject to possible deportation. In this case, ICE used Thomson Reuters’s controversial CLEAR database, part of a growing industry of commercial data brokers that contract with government agencies, essentially circumventing barriers that might prevent the government from collecting certain types of information.