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Wed Mar 3, 2021, 05:33 PM

ICE investigators used a private utility database covering millions to pursue immigration violations

Source: Washington Post

ICE investigators used a private utility database covering millions to pursue immigration violations

Government agencies increasingly are accessing private information they are not authorized to compile on their own

By Drew Harwell
Feb. 26, 2021 at 3:55 p.m. EST

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have tapped a private database containing hundreds of millions of phone, water, electricity and other utility records while pursuing immigration violations, according to public documents uncovered by Georgetown Law researchers and shared with The Washington Post.

ICE’s use of the private database is another example of how government agencies have exploited commercial sources to access information they are not authorized to compile on their own. It also highlights how real-world surveillance efforts are being fueled by information people may never have expected would land in the hands of law enforcement.

The database, CLEAR, includes more than 400 million names, addresses and service records from more than 80 utility companies covering all the staples of modern life, including water, gas and electricity, and phone, Internet and cable TV.

CLEAR documents say the database includes billions of records related to people’s employment, housing, credit reports, criminal histories and vehicle registrations from utility companies in all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is updated daily, meaning even a recent move or new utility sign-up could be reflected in an individual search.

CLEAR is run by the media and data conglomerate Thomson Reuters, which sells “legal investigation software solution” subscriptions to a broad range of companies and public agencies. The company has said in documents that its utility data comes from the credit-reporting giant Equifax. Thomson Reuters, based in Toronto, also owns the international news service Reuters as well as other prominent subscription databases, including Westlaw.

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Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/02/26/ice-private-utility-data/

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