Utility giants agree to stop selling data to ICE, but loopholes remain | Chicago News


Utility giants have agreed to stop selling sensitive information to immigration and customs, among other law enforcement agencies.

For years, companies have sold data from cable, telephone, and electricity bills, including names, home addresses, and more.

The move comes after pressure from Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and a national “No technology for ICE”campaign launched in 2018 by Mijente, a national and political organizing center for the Latinxes.

“A few years ago, we decided to sound the alarm bells that technology was being used for human rights violations against our immigrant communities,” said Cinthya Rodriguez, organizer of Mijente. “In this particular situation, the National Stock Exchange for Telecommunications and Consumer Utilities has a database with information about utilities which is actually managed exclusively by a data broker we know as Equifax. It is then handed over to the ICE.

Fans say it’s a win, but some shortcomings remain, including here in Chicago.

A start of year report reveals flaws in Chicago Sanctuary Law that allow the Chicago Police Department to share information with the ICE.

Nicole Hallett, associate professor of clinical law at the University of Chicago and director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, says a domain of data continues to feed “the deportation machine” through the Fusion center.

“It’s located within the CPD, which is actually a collaboration between the ICE, other federal law enforcement agencies, and the CPD,” Hallett said. “All the data collected by the city is put in the database and in the center. Any law enforcement agency can then access this data with very few safeguards to ensure that this data is not used to try to deport people.

Activists and organizers point out that few people know their information is being used in this way.

“A lot of times we don’t think about our data or our privacy as much as our physical selves or our physical security,” Rodriguez said. “The Welcoming City Ordinance of Chicago has provided protections for communities around information sharing, but big data presents an alternative, almost a way around the Fourth Amendment. “

Still, Hallett says recent development is a step in the right direction for immigrant communities.

“This recent announcement on utility records is really important,” Hallett said. “You can imagine that many, many undocumented people here have to be hooked up to water. They have to plug in their electricity and then use these files to kick them out really pushes people even further into the shadows.

For many, the demand for additional protections for immigrant communities across the country continues.

“We are very much aware that this is a big, big problem that we are facing and therefore we need a large, coordinated, multisectoral movement of people who are willing to organize themselves around this,” Rodriguez said. “We will continue to work with law students, community members, investors, shareholders and techies in 2022 as the data gets bigger. “


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