A commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones is being used by immigration and border authorities to round up undesirable immigrants for detention and deportation.
The Wall Street Journal [paywall] published a special report on Friday about how federal agencies under impeached president Donald Trump are exploiting cellphone location data to track individuals for enforcement of Trump's racist immigration policies.
"The location data is drawn from ordinary cellphone apps, including those for games, weather and e-commerce, for which the user has granted permission to log the phone's location," write te WSJ's Byron Tau and Michelle Hackman: Excerpt:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of DHS, has used the data to help identify immigrants who were later arrested, these people said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, another agency under DHS, uses the information to look for cellphone activity in unusual places, such as remote stretches of desert that straddle the Mexican border, the people said.
The federal government's use of such data for law enforcement purposes hasn't previously been reported.
Experts say the information amounts to one of the largest known troves of bulk data being deployed by law enforcement in the U.S.—and that the use appears to be on firm legal footing because the government buys access to it from a commercial vendor, just as a private company could, though its use hasn't been tested in court.
Federal Agencies Use Cellphone Location Data for Immigration Enforcement
[WSJ, reporting by Byron Tau and Michelle Hackman, Feb. 7, 2020 7:30 am ET]