ICE accused of using Facebook to track undocumented immigrants

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ByKatie Marzullo KGO logo
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
ICE accused of using Facebook to track undocumented immigrants
The headline is eye-catching. "ICE uses Facebook Data to find and track immigrants, internal emails show."

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The headline is eye-catching -- "ICE uses Facebook Data to find and track immigrants, internal emails show."

The story was posted Monday by the media outlet, The Intercept.

It reads: "ICE, the federal agency tasked with Trump's program of mass deportation, uses backend Facebook data to locate and track immigrants that it is working to round up, according to a string of emails and documents obtained by The Intercept through a public records request."

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The story goes on to cite an example in which an apparent immigrant was tracked.

An ICE spokesperson has responded to the allegation in a statement to ABC7 News.

It reads: "The recent accusation that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has requested information from Facebook in order to find and track aliens for the purpose of making administrative arrests due to civil immigration violations is baseless. Due to law-enforcement sensitivities, we're not going to comment on investigative techniques or tactics other than to say that during the course of a criminal investigation, we have the ability to seek subpoenas, warrants and court orders to legally compel a company to provide information that may assist in case completion and subsequent prosecution.

That is an established procedure that is consistent with all other law enforcement agencies. Additionally, investigators can use open-source information that is readily available on various social-media platforms during the course of an investigation."

Facebook also issued a statement: "Facebook does not provide ICE or any other law enforcement agency with any special data access to assist with the enforcement of immigration law. We have strict processes in place to handle these government requests. Every request we receive is checked for legal sufficiency. We require officials to provide a detailed description of the legal and factual basis for their request, and we push back when we find legal deficiencies or overly broad or vague demands for information."

"In this case, our records show that ICE sent valid legal process to us in an investigation said to involve an active child predator. We take the enforcement of laws protecting children from child predators very seriously, and we responded to ICE's valid request with data consistent with our publicly available data disclosure standards. ICE did not identify any immigration law violations in connection with its data request to Facebook in this case."

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Rep. Ro Khanna, who was in Santa Clara Monday night for a Pathway to Citizenship Resource Fair, told ABC7 News the allegations are concerning. He said Facebook is not a place where immigration services should be violating people's privacy.

"We need to make sure why they're doing this. What the laws are. Are there safeguards that they can not be searching those sites without a warrant, without a judge authorized procedure," said Khanna.

An attorney for CAIR said everyone should be cautious when using the internet because every transaction, post, comment and "like" is tracked and can potentially be turned over to law enforcement.

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