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Technology ACLU is suing ICE for details on how it uses phone spying devices

18:45  11 december  2019
18:45  11 december  2019 Source:   cnet.com

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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday requesting that two US Homeland Security agencies -- Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- release details on how they've been using powerful phone surveillance tools. The ACLU is suing

While the ACLU doesn't expressly oppose apps that use data from people's phones to trace the spread of the virus, the organization says in its advisory that implementation will require a greater level of consent from users - especially when it comes to how their data is shared.

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit requesting Customs and Border Protection and Immigrants and Customs Enforcement to release details on how it's been using powerful phone surveillance tools.

A Border Patrol agent in a control room in Laredo, Texas. James Martin/CNET© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. A Border Patrol agent in a control room in Laredo, Texas. James Martin/CNET

The ACLU is suing after the two agencies declined to provide its documents related to International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers, more commonly known as "Stingrays." These devices pretend to be cell towers and connect with nearby phones, intercepting data detailing calls, messages and device location.

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IMSI catchers can often pull in data from entire neighborhoods, and are able to obtain sensitive details on people without them even knowing. Civil liberties and privacy groups have criticized the technology for its invasive surveillance.

ICE and CBP denied the ACLU's requests for information since 2017, telling the civil rights organization that "no records responsive to your request were found."

This claim comes despite the fact that a House Oversight Committee investigation in 2016 found that ICE spent $10.6 million on 59 IMSI catchers, while CBP had spent $2.5 million on 33 IMSI catchers.

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How would we feel if someone were standing outside our bedroom window, staring in through the curtains. The most common response would be to call the police. However, what do we do when everyone is being monitored?

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ICE did not respond to requests for comment. CBP declined to comment on pending litigation.

In its lawsuit, the ACLU is also citing twocases where ICE had used IMSI catchers to track and arrest immigrants. Those cases had only come to light because of journalists uncovering warrants to use the IMSI catchers, as the two agencies have not been forthcoming with how it uses the surveillance tool.

In the ACLU's initial request, it asked for ICE and CBP's records on its policies surrounding IMSI catchers, the number of times these surveillance tools were used in each field office, and when it has been used on behalf of outside agencies.

The records request also wanted ICE to disclose how often IMSI catchers had been used as evidence in immigration court proceedings, and details about search warrants related to the cell site simulators.

The ACLU wants to know how ICE is ensuring people's civil liberties are protected while the agency is using IMSI catchers, and requested for documents showing what rules and regulations they had in place while using the devices.

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The civil liberties organization has sued the Department of Homeland Security for public records requests in the past. In April, after finding evidence in a lawsuit surrounding warrantless searches on electronic devices at the US border, the ACLU learned that the DHS had given agents free rein over thousands of devices.

A Border Patrol agent in a control room in Laredo, Texas.© CNET

A Border Patrol agent in a control room in Laredo, Texas.

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