Updated - Thomson Reuters Selling US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Access to Data
Update 28 June 2018
Last week Privacy International wrote to Thomson Reuters Corporation asking the company to commit to ensuring the vast amounts of data they provide to US immigration agencies isn’t used to identify families for indefinite detention or separation, or for other human rights abuses.
Thomson Reuters has unfortunately ignored our specific questions and made no such commitment.
Instead, the CEO Thomson Reuters Special Services (TRSS) a subsidiary, makes clear that instead of committing to not providing products or services which may be used to enforce cruel, arbitrary, and disproportionate measures, TRSS is instead “support[s] the rule of law”, ensuring its customers merely have “specific legally permissible uses prior to being granted access to any data”, and that the company is committed to “independence, integrity, and freedom from bias” as “governments and public policy change”.
The response did not address the questions PI asked, including whether any human rights risk assessment has been conducted, whether any of the data they are providing to ICE is being used to enforce the Trump Administration’s cruel and inhumane policies, or whether they will commit to not selling huge datasets which may lead to human rights abuses.
PI has not yet received a response from Thomson Reuters itself, or the other subsidiary, West Publishing.
Given the serious nature of and lack of transparency in ICE’s detention of immigrant families, including children, Privacy International has today written again to Thomson Reuters Corporation, demanding clarification.
We ask again that Thomson Reuters, which calls itself “The Answer Company”, answers the following questions.
- Whether any of the company’s or company subsidiaries’ products or services are being or have been used by US authorities to identify families for immigration enforcement purposes, including parents potentially separated from their children.
- What human rights impact assessments of the company’s or company subsidiaries’ products or services have been completed, if any?
- Whether Thomson Reuters Corporation will commit to not providing products or services to US immigration agencies which may be used to enforce such cruel, arbitrary, and disproportionate measures.
- Whether Thomson Reuters Corporation will commit to not providing products or services to agencies worldwide which may be used to enforce cruel, arbitrary, and disproportionate measures.
In addition to the above questions, Privacy International also asks clarification of the following question.
- By what framework does Thomson Reuters Corporation ensure that its subsidiaries abide by the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles?
We will again update this page with any updates.
21 June 2018
Documentation shows that Thomson Reuters Corporation is selling access to highly sensitive and personal data to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, the authority responsible for implementing the US government's zero tolerance immigration policy, including the separation of families and indefinite detention.
The policy has recently received widespread and international condemnation. In the past two months, over 2000 children have been forcibly separated from their parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that such “sweeping cruelty” causes “irreparable harm” which can “carry lifelong consequences for children”; the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the policy “unconscionable.”
In addition to the policy's clear moral failure, it is also in violation of the US's international commitments. The US is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which protects families from unnecessary interference by the government. Separating families at the US border is cruel, arbitrary, disproportionate, and a clear contravention under Article 17 of the ICCPR which protects the rights of children and parents.
Privacy International has sent an open letter to the President of Thomson Reuters Corporation asking whether he will commit to ensuring the multinational company’s products or services are not used to enforce cruel, arbitrary, and disproportionate measures, including those currently being implemented by US immigration authorities.
PI has provided federal procurement documents showing that ICE currently has contracts:
- With West Publishing Corporation, a Thomson Reuters subsidiary, providing it with access to the Consolidated Lead Evaluation and Reporting (CLEAR) system as part of a contract value worth over $20 million. The CLEAR system allows ICE access to a “vast collection of public and proprietary records” including phone records, consumer and credit bureau data, healthcare provider content, utilities data, DMV records, World-Check listing, business data, data from social networks and chatrooms, and “live access to more than 7 billion license plate detections”.
- With Thomson Reuters Special Services providing ICE’s Detention Compliance and Removal office with “subscription data services”. The contract is worth over $6.7 million and was signed in February 2018. Other documentation specifies that the contract is for a “continuous monitoring and alert system to track 500,000 identities per month” which is “able to securely process and return aliens’ information and addresses using the following types of specified data: FBI numbers; State Identification Numbers; real time jail booking data; credit history; insurance claims; phone number account information; wireless phone accounts; wire transfer data; driver’s license information; vehicle registration information; property information; pay day loan information; public court records; incarceration data; employment address data; Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) data; and employer records.”
- With West Publishing Corporation providing its Detention Compliance and Removal office with “access to license plate reader database” as part of a contract value worth over $6 million in December 2017.
PI is urgently asking Thomson Reuters Corporation:
- Whether any of the company’s or company subsidiaries’ products or services are being or have been used by US authorities to identity families for immigration enforcement purposes, including parents potentially separated from their children
- What human rights impact assessments of the company’s or company subsidiaries’ products or services have been completed, if any
- Whether Thomson Reuters Corporation will commit to not providing products or services to US immigration agencies which may be used to enforce such cruel, arbitrary, and disproportionate measures
- Whether Thomson Reuters Corporation will commit to not providing products or services to agencies worldwide which may be used to enforce cruel, arbitrary, and disproportionate measures
PI will update this page with any response.