Facebook’s user security scandal has just reached new and disturbing heights.
According to reports from The Intercept, officials from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency have been using Facebook data to pinpoint where and when immigrants are logging into their Facebook accounts. It’s been known for a while that the ICE uses pictures on Facebook in order to locate people being investigated, but this is the first public claim that they also use personal data.
Is it a coincidence that this revelation comes in the midst of Facebook taking a ton of heat over the personal data of over 50 million users being compromised by a pro-Trump firm in order to send them personalized ads in an attempt to sway their decision in the 2016 presidential election? I’m gonna go with a hard “probably not,” and no apology from Mark Zuckerberg is gonna change that.
According to The Intercept‘s Lee Fang, emails obtained through a public records request indicate that 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.” In one of those email threads, Homeland Security Investigations agent said that he could use a combination of “Facebook Business Record” data and “IP address information back from T-Mobile” in order to pinpoint the location of a man in New Mexico for whom the agent was searching.
An ICE agent within the thread said,
I am going to see if our Palantir guy is here to dump the Western Union info in there since I know there is a way to triangulate the area he’s sending money from and narrow down time of day etc.
Whether or not the agents were able to track down that particular person is unclear, but the emails revealed just how they were able to use pieces of data gathered from multiple sources in order to identify and track somebody down.
A spokesperson for the ICE named Matthew Bourke told The Intercept that the ICE would provide no…
…comment on investigative techniques or tactics other than to say that during the course of a criminal investigation, we have the ability to seek subpoenas and court orders to legally compel a company to provide information that may assist in case completion and subsequent prosecution.
In September of 2017, the Department of Homeland Security made a public announcement in which they said they would use social media presences in order to track immigrants by using “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.”
Is it just me or does this seem really, really racist and invasive? Also, fuck Facebook for letting this happen. Whether they were aware of it or not, it’s their negligence toward their users’ privacy that lets the ICE gather personal information.