U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement used Facebook data to track down undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation, according to a report by The Intercept.
Documents and emails obtained by the publication through a public records request provided a rare glimpse into one of the tactics ICE used to monitor undocumented immigrants before arresting them. In one case, several agents were in touch with an investigator in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to track down information about a particular individual, and eventually obtained backend Facebook data showing when the account was accessed. It also revealed the IP addresses corresponding to each login, The Intercept reported.
An investigator with Homeland Security Investigations, ICE’s investigative unit, then emailed a “Facebook business record” showing the suspect’s phone number and the location of each of their logins during a specific time period.
In a statement sent to the Bay Area News Group, a Facebook spokesperson said the specific case cited in the article was connected to an investigation of a 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,” the company said. “ICE did not identify any immigration law violations in connection with its data request to Facebook in this case.”
The spokesperson said, “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.”
ICE did not respond to requests for comment.
An ICE spokesman told The Intercept that “during the course of a criminal investigation, we have the ability to seek subpoenas and court orders to legally compel a company to provide information that may assist in case completion and subsequent prosecution.”
Facebook faces mounting criticism over how users’ personal data was accessed by third parties for political purposes.
Reports last week revealed that Cambridge Analytica – a London-based data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign – had accessed the personal information of 50 million Facebook users without their permission. Federal regulators are investigating the data breach, and politicians are considering new privacy rules that could hamstring such activity.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since apologized, admitting his company “made mistakes” in handling its more than 2.2 billion users’ information.
A semiannual transparency report detailing the number of government requests for user data it received showed that from January 2017 through June 2017, Facebook received 32,716 requests for data from 52,280 users, the Intercept reported. It’s unclear how many of the requests came from ICE.
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