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LexisNexis Selling Personal Data To Federal Gov't For 'Predictive Policing' Program

New report says federal officials using private data brokers for investigations could be in violation of 4th amendment protections

LexisNexis Selling Personal Data To Federal Gov't For 'Predictive Policing' Program

Data broker LexisNexis is providing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency with a data system that allows federal law enforcement personnel to target individuals before an actual crime has taken place.

The program was exposed after the Intercept obtained unredacted documents confirming the partnership between the company and the U.S. government.

“The purpose of this program is mass surveillance at its core,” Julie Mao, an attorney and co-founder of Just Futures Law, which is suing LexisNexis over allegations it illegally buys and sells personal data, told The Intercept.

Mao explained that the contract document is “an admission and indication that ICE aims to surveil individuals where no crime has been committed and no criminal warrant or evidence of probable cause.”

According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act FOIA request, ICE purchased the database for $16.8 million — “unlocking an oceanic volume of personal information on American citizens and noncitizens alike that spans hundreds of millions of individuals, totaling billions of records drawn from 10,000 different sources,” The Intercept reported last year in a separate story about the massive trove of data.

“Becoming a LexisNexis customer not only provides law enforcement with instant, easy access to a wealth of easily searchable data points on hundreds of millions of people, but also lets them essentially purchase data rather than having to formally request it or seek a court order,” the report stated.

The documents show that during a 7-month period, ICE conducted more than 1.2 million searches, and produced 302,431 reports that provide an exhaustive rundown of a person’s location, work history, family relationships, and other data points.

Using LexisNexis, federal authorities can collate large quantities of information about a person’s life and “visually map their relationships to other people and property,” the report says.

ICE can also combine the data with other databases provided by outside firms to link datasets to private user data from social media companies.

LexisNexis even provides federal officials with the ability to integrate its database with license plate recognition capabilities, allowing police to track a person’s movements — “potentially bypassing Fourth Amendment considerations,” the report noted.

Earlier this year, congressional officials announced the continuation of their own bipartisan investigation into data brokers and the constitutional questions surrounding the selling of Americans’ private information.

“American privacy concerns in the data broker industry are not new, and existing laws do not sufficiently protect Americans’ data from misuse,” members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee said in a statement. “In 2014, the FTC issued a report recommending that Congress require data brokers to increase transparency and give Americans more control of their data. However, data brokers can easily circumvent existing rules and laws regarding the collection and sharing of certain types of data, such as HIPAA.”

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against data broker Kochava for selling geolocation data from hundreds of millions of mobile devices, which can be used to trace movements of people to and from sensitive locations, including places of worship and domestic violence shelters.

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