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New contract lets ICE track license plates across U.S.

By
Susan McFarland
The U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement building in Washington, D.C. Earlier this month, ICE landed a contract that will give agents access to billions of U.S. license plate records and the ability to use real-time location tracking. File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI
The U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement building in Washington, D.C. Earlier this month, ICE landed a contract that will give agents access to billions of U.S. license plate records and the ability to use real-time location tracking. File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency landed a contract that will give agents access to billions of U.S. license plate records and the ability to use real-time location tracking.

The contract, awarded to West Publishing (TRSS) in partnership with Vigilant Solutions, will give ICE tools to help support its investigations, but according to the agency it will not be used for to build or contribute to national license plate reader databases.

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"Like most other law enforcement agencies, ICE uses information obtained from license plate readers as one tool in support of its investigations," ICE spokesperson Dani Bennett said in a statement to the Verge. "ICE conducts both criminal investigations and civil immigration enforcement investigations."

It is not uncommon for law enforcement agencies to track license plates, but the move concerns activists regarding recent immigration enforcement, something in which ICE has a broad role.

The data access gives ICE agents the capability of using a historical search that would show every place a certain license plate has been seen during the last five years -- including a record of a target's movements. Data also can be used to find a person's residence and identify cars of those associated with the target.

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ICE explored getting access to a similar database in 2014 but canceled the request due to privacy concerns and then conducted a privacy impact assessment, something in which the new contract must comply, according to officials.

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