ACLU asks court to order ICE to release details of surveillance contract and use

By John Breslin | Jun 5, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – A civil rights group is asking a federal court to order an immigration enforcement agency to hand over information regarding the collection and use of a type of surveillance technology.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed a complaint for declaratory relief and injunctive relief under the Freedom of Information Act in the U.S. District Court for the Northern California on May 23 against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The complaint by the ACLU follows reports that ICE has purchased access to databases containing information on the license plate numbers of drivers.

The ACLU alleges it submitted requests for information more than two months ago regarding the defendant's contracts with private companies for access and use of Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) databases, but no records were produced.

The suit states that ALPR systems use cameras, image processing and a database to "recognize and store licenses associated with date, time, and location at the time of recognition."

This technology is used, the ACLU alleges, to "track the movements of drivers on America's streets," and millions are collected each month and shared among law enforcement agencies.

The suit states it is used by local law enforcement, private companies, and repossession services "to collect data on millions of drivers on the street, in apartment complexes, at shopping centers, and large employee parking lots."

"Private companies can accumulate billions of pieces of data on a driver’s location stretching back months or years," the complaint states.

It emerged earlier this year that ICE bought access to two private databases, the suit states. 

The FOIA request to ICE asked for records on contracts between ICE and the database companies, training material, privacy policies and other guidance on appropriate use by agents.

The court is asked to order ICE to release all the records and declare unlawful its failure to do so.

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