Addressing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), US legislators issued a letter expressing their worries about the controversial monitoring programme and the private corporation BI Inc, which collects data for the programme on behalf of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
A review of these policies, as well as interviews with immigrants and former BI employees, reveals contradicting information about the App’s frequency of location monitoring and gathering of a wide range of data from its users.
Data pertaining to criminal activity is also exchanged between BI’s government clients and law enforcement authorities. There is no mechanism to limit BI’s data collecting and sharing because there are no federal rules in existence to oversee the data acquired by users.
Lawmakers have urged that DHS reexamine the deal it signed with BI and increase transparency in BI’s practices, citing concerns that the data could be exploited.
According to the letter, data collection from monitoring devices such as ankle shackles not only puts the subject under surveillance but also citizens who may be nearby. This unwarranted surveillance raises worries about civil rights violations.
In response to the concerns, an ICE official stated in a statement that the programmes were an effective way of following immigrants who had been released from DHS custody and were awaiting their court dates.
Immigrants detained by ICE are allowed to return home as they await their court appearance, but they must comply with the surveillance programme. Through the SmartLink App developed by BI, ICE can impose the usage of ankle monitors, voice message check-ins, and facial recognition check-ins.
Though ICE stated earlier in 2018 that it only acquired GPS points during the subjects’ weekly check-ins, the warning to SmartLink app users that -continued use of GPS running in the background will substantially impair battery life -indicates that BI may be tracking its users more frequently.
Numerous immigrants have stated that BI encourages them to keep their phones with them at all times, to keep location service turned on, and to keep their phone batteries from dying. The phone has taken the place of the ankle monitor. The Smartlink App’s criteria imply that the App collects significantly more data than just location.
There are rising concerns that BI’s non-transparent data collecting will lead to data sharing and monetization. The information might be used against the immigrants to harass them in a variety of ways.
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