From [HERE] Tech and data companies are building—and profiting from—the Trump administration’s deportation machine, providing local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies with the data analysis and tracking software necessary for a massive web of surveillance, a new report shows.
The “ICE Tech Contracting for Person-centric Immigration Enforcement” report, prepared by Empower LLC and commissioned by the Latino and immigration rights organizations Mijente, the National Immigration Project, and the Immigrant Defense Project, details an expansive network, and shows that key tech companies—including Amazon, Palantir Technologies, and Forensic Logic—are profiting from it.
Earlier this year, NBC News reported based on a public records search that Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Thomson Reuters, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions, and Palantir all have active contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But the Department of Homeland Security’s expansive network of person-centric data systems, built for an information-sharing initiative between various levels of law enforcement, poses not only a threat to immigrant communities, but to marginalized communities, activists say.
ICE collects data, which it uses to build profiles of undocumented persons, with the intent to arrest, detain, and deport them. Information Technology (IT) spending accounts for nearly 10% of DHS’s budget, or $6.8 billion, making it the largest IT budget in the federal government, according to data from the DHS Congressional Budget Justification FY 2019. This level of mass surveillance and data collection and sharing opens the door to a much wider net that could broadly target people of color, incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people, and leftist activists, including Black Lives Matter, environmental activists, and antifascists, activists say.
“The Trump administration is pushing an incredibly racist and xenophobic policing agenda. Tech and data companies’ involvement is part of this expansion,” Jacinta Gonzalez, Mijente’s field director tells Fortune. “The government could be contracting tech companies for environmental reasons, but instead it’s targeting communities of color, specifically people organizing for their rights.”
Mijente has pressured Palantir to drop its $51 million contract with ICE to build a web case management system that helps the agency surveil, track, and deport immigrants across the country. The group targeted Palantir and Amazon over the summer at Burning Man, where activists brought a giant cage labeled with “ICE” to the Nevada music festival known to attract the tech leaders of Silicon Valley.
The database created by Palantir uses information pulled from the DHS, FBI and other sources to build profiles of people who have crossed the border, including “schooling, family relationships, employment information, phone records, immigration history, foreign exchange program status, personal connections, biometric traits, criminal records, and home and work addresses,” the Intercept reported last year.
Meanwhile, Amazon receives millions of dollars to host Palantir, as well as backups of DHS’s vast database of biometric information on its web servers, according to the report. The two companies are dominating the market to meet the federal government’s data storage needs, building an increasingly effective deportation and incarceration infrastructure for the Trump administration, activists say.
Amazon, which is now the wealthiest corporation in the world, has more federal authorizations to store government data than any other corporation, with 204 authorizations compared to Google’s 27, according to data from the FedRAMP Marketplace.
Amazon faced backlash from employees earlier this year for selling its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, to law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Florida, and for its partnerships with companies providing technical and data support to ICE. In an open letter, employees criticized CEO Jeff Bezos for the move, arguing that these technologies help further militarize the police, and fuel the detention and deportation of immigrants. [MORE]