As the #DeleteFacebook movement gains steam and the company continues to lose billions in market value amid the ongoing data breach scandal, a recently surfaced controversy might make things even worse for the social media giant.
According to a new report published in The Intercept, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have been using private Facebook data, like pictures and check-ins, in their investigations to hunt down undocumented immigrants. The damning emails and documents cited in the report, acquired through a public records request, showed how the federal agency tasked with mass deportation under the Trump administration used backend Facebook data to not only locate but also stalk their targets.
The emails also confirmed Homeland Security officials managed to “obtain backend Facebook data revealing a log of when the account was accessed and the IP addresses corresponding to each login,” according to the report.
One such incident cited in the report took place in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where a local detective reportedly contacted ICE officials to obtain information about a suspect. Apparently, the federal officers used backend Facebook data to figure out when that person had accessed his account and the IP addresses for each login.
In an internal email, Homeland Security investigations agent Lea Whitis sent her team a “Facebook Business Record” that not only revealed the suspect’s contact number but also the locations for every login during a particular time period.
The man was later arrested, according to the report.
However, in an apparent effort to defend itself, Facebook claimed ICE made a legal information request for an “active child predator” investigation.
“We take the enforcement of laws protecting children from child predators very seriously, and we responded to ICE's valid request with data consistent with our publicly available data disclosure standards,” a spokesman said in a statement. “ICE did not identify any immigration law violations in connection with its data request to Facebook in this case.”
The news about ICE using Facebook data to hunt immigrants comes at a time when people are pledging to delete their social media accounts following the revelation an analytics company improperly used their personal information to help President Donald Trump win the 2016 election.
“Facebook does not provide ICE or any other law enforcement agency with any special data access to assist with the enforcement of immigration law," the spokesman added. "We require officials to provide a detailed description of the legal and factual basis for their request, and we push back when we find legal deficiencies or overly broad or vague demands for information."
Meanwhile, ICE also released a statement.
“Due to law-enforcement sensitivities, we're not going to comment on investigative techniques or tactics other than to say that during the course of a criminal investigation (and I emphasize criminal investigation), we have the ability to seek subpoenas, warrants and court orders to legally compel a company to provide information that may assist in case completion and subsequent prosecution,” stated a spokesperson.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Dado Ruvic