In a bombshell report, an oversight body for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Enforcement (CBP), and the Secret Service all broke the law while using location data harvested from ordinary apps installed on smartphones. In one instance, a CBP official also inappropriately used the technology to track the location of coworkers with no investigative purpose. For years U.S. government agencies have been buying access to location data through commercial vendors, a practice which critics say skirts the Fourth Amendment requirement of a warrant. During that time, the agencies have typically refused to publicly explain the legal basis on which they based their purchase and use of the data. Now, the report shows that three of the main customers of commercial location data broke the law while doing so, and didn’t have any supervisory review to ensure proper use of the technology. The report also recommends that ICE stop all use of such data until it obtains the necessary approvals, a request that ICE has refused.
The report, titled “CBP, ICE, and Secret Service Did Not Adhere to Privacy Policies or Develop Sufficient Policies Before Procuring and Using Commercial Telemetry Data,” is dated September 28, 2023, and comes from Joseph V. Cuffari, the Inspector General for DHS. The report was originally marked as “law enforcement sensitive,” but the Inspector General has now released it publicly.
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