Thursday, October 10, 2019

Guest Post: The Uncomfortable Connection Between ICE and Westlaw


Guest post by Prof. Sarah Lamdan (CUNY)

This week’s New York Times Magazine features a piece by McKenzie Funk called How ICE Picks Its Targets in the Surveillance Age. The article offers vivid examples of the ways ICE’s surveillance program impacts the lives of the 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. To meet the White House demand for more deportations, ICE is leaning more and more on technology to track and target immigrants. In the article, Funk focuses on one company, Thomson Reuters, as ICE’s main data broker. Thomson Reuters fuels ICE’s surveillance program with personal data about immigrants. The data corporation helps ICE track over 500,000 identities a month and has over $30 million in contracts with the agency. LexisNexis similarly bids on ICE contracts, supplies their Accurint product to ICE’s Fugitive Operations Support Center, and attended an investor day for ICE’s extreme vetting program.

As we read Funk’s stories about ICE using Thomson Reuters products to track and detain immigrants, it’s important to remember that we also rely on a Thomson Reuters product, Westlaw, to do our jobs. Now is a good time to consider whether using big data surveillance companies’ research tools runs counter to our ethical obligations. A recent law review article, When Westlaw Fuels ICE Surveillance: Legal Ethics in the Era of Big Data Policing, lays out the specific professional responsibility issues raised by using products that feed immigration surveillance programs.

The ACLU has called out Thomson Reuters for supplying driver location data to ICE because of the civil liberties risks raised by license plate readers. A report drafted by Mijente, the National Immigration Project, and the Immigrant Defense Project also condemns Thomson Reuters’s ICE contracts and its role as ICE’s main data broker. Should immigration lawyers also call on Thomson Reuters to reconsider its work with ICE’s surveillance program?

-KitJ posting on behalf of Sarah Lamdan

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