EPIC v. ICE (Palantir Databases)

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  • EPIC Settles ICE Lawsuit about Palantir and Profiling: EPIC has settled a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement. EPIC sought records about the agency's use of Palantir's technology for mass surveillance. The documents obtained by EPIC revealed the vast capabilities of agency program to link phone numbers, GPS data, and social network data. The FALCON database, developed by Palantir, also includes sensitive data such as social security numbers, financial records, call records, ISP records. In previous comments, EPIC urged the agency to limit the data gathered, narrow the exemptions to the Privacy Act, and remove the routine use disclosures. As a consequence of the successful litigation, EPIC will receive attorneys fees. (Jan. 31, 2020)
  • EPIC Urges Congress to Press ICE on Surveillance Practices: In a statement to the House Appropriations committee on Immigration and Customs Enforcement. EPIC urged close examination of the agency's profiling algorithms, warrantless searches of mobile devices, social media profiling, and the use of DACA application data for investigative purposes. EPIC said the committee should "limit funding pending assurances that ICE takes specific steps" to improve privacy. EPIC has filed multiple FOIA lawsuits against ICE regarding theses surveillance programs. (Apr. 9, 2019)
  • More top news

  • EPIC Submits Comments on Regulation of Private Surveillance Industry + (Feb. 14, 2019)
    EPIC has submitted comments the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression for a report on the surveillance industry. The Special Rapporteur is soliciting information for a report to UN General Assembly on how surveillance technology is regulated and used around the world. EPIC's submission details a recent U.S. proposal to limit exports of surveillance technology, new limits on access to surveillance tech in the United States, and key EPIC Freedom of Information Act cases to uncover details of ICE's procurement of mobile forensics and analytics technology. EPIC pursues an extensive FOIA docket.
  • EPIC Urges Congress to Examine Surveillance at the Border + (Nov. 28, 2018)
    EPIC wrote to a Senate committee about the nominee to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. EPIC urged the Committee to examine the agency's practices, including the use of secretive algorithms and databases, warrantless searches of mobile devices, social media profiling, and the use of DACA application data for investigative purposes. EPIC has filed multiple FOIA lawsuits against ICE regarding theses surveillance programs. A previous FOIA lawsuit EPIC v. CPB uncovered Planter's role in Analytical Framework for Intelligence, a program that assigns "risk assessment" scores to travelers.
  • EPIC FOIA - EPIC Sues for Details of Palantir's Government Systems + (Dec. 15, 2017)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking details of the agency's relationship with Palantir. The federal agency contracted with the Peter Thiel company to establish vast databases of personal information, and to make secret determinations about the opportunities for employment, travel, and also who is subject to criminal investigations. EPIC is seeking the government contracts with Palantir, as well as assessments and other related documents. The ICE Investigative Case Management System and the FALCON system pull together vast troves of personal data from across the federal government. EPIC wrote in the complaint, "Palantir's 'big data' systems raise far-reaching privacy and civil liberties risks." In an earlier FOIA lawsuit, EPIC v. CBP, EPIC uncovered Palantir's role in the Analytical Framework for Intelligence, a program that assigns "risk assessment" scores to travelers, including U.S. citizens.
  • EPIC, Coalition Oppose Government's 'Extreme Vetting' Proposal + (Nov. 16, 2017)
    EPIC and a coalition of civil rights organizations have sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security strongly opposing the Extreme Vetting Initiative. A similar letter was sent by technical experts. The government's 'Extreme Vetting' initiative uses opaque procedures, secret profiles, and obscure data including social media post, to review visa applicants and make final determinations. EPIC has warned against both the government's use of social media data and secret algorithms to profile individuals for decision making purposes. EPIC is also pursuing a FOIA request for details on the relationship between the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and Palantir, a company that provides software to analyze large amounts of data.
  • CBP Plans to Exempt Social Media Data from Legal Protections + (Sep. 22, 2017)
    Customs and Border Protection has published a system of records notice for the "Intelligence Records System." The agency proposes to exempt the database from many Privacy Act safeguards. The database contains detailed personal data from social media and commercial data services. CBP will use the "Analytical Framework for Intelligence" to secretly profile and evaluate social media users. In the FOIA lawsuit EPIC v. CBP, EPIC uncovered Palantir's role in Analytical Framework for Intelligence, a program that assigns "risk assessment" scores to U.S. travelers. EPIC is now pursuing a FOIA request to Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking details of the agency's relationship with Palantir.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Seeks Details of ICE, Palantir Deal + (Aug. 15, 2017)
    EPIC has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking details of the agency's relationship with Palantir. The federal agency contracted with the Peter Thiel company to establish vast databases of personal information, and develop new capabilities for searching, tracking, and profiling. EPIC is seeking the ICE contracts with Palantir, as well as training materials, reports, analysis, and other documents. The ICE Investigative Case Management System and the FALCON system now connect personal data across federal government, oftentimes in violation of the federal Privacy Act. The Intercept reported that FALCON "will eventually give agents access to more than 4 billion 'individual data records.'" In FOIA lawsuit EPIC v. CBP, EPIC uncovered Planter's role in Analytical Framework for Intelligence, a program that assigns "risk assessment" scores to travelers. EPIC continues to advocate for greater transparency in computer-based decision making.
  • DHS Privacy Office Releases 2016 Report, Secret Profiling on the Rise + (Apr. 20, 2017)
    The Department of Homeland Security has released the 2016 Annual Data Mining Report. The report describes several of the agency's profiling systems that assign secret "risk assessments" to U.S. citizens. According to the DHS report, the Analytical Framework for Intelligence is accessible to several agency components, including the Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Coast Guard, and the Transportation Security Administration. Through a Freedom of information Act lawsuit, EPIC previously obtained important documents about the secretive scoring program. EPIC is now appealing EPIC v. CBP to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to compel the release of additional documents.
  • The Verge Features EPIC FOIA Docs on Secret Profiling System + (Dec. 21, 2016)
    In an article today, The Verge featured an EPIC Freedom of Information Act lawsuit about a controversial government data mining program, operated by the Department of Homeland Security. EPIC is seeking documents on the "Analytical Framework for Intelligence," a program that assigns "risk assessment" scores to travelers using data from sources including the Automated Targeting System, also operated by the DHS. Travelers "don't know how the scores are being generated and what the factors are," said EPIC FOIA Counsel, John Tran. "What if there's an error? Users should have an opportunity to correct the error, users should have an opportunity to understand what goes into generating the score." The case is currently pending before a federal judge in Washington, DC. EPIC expects to obtain more records on AFI. The FOIA case is also related to EPIC's ongoing work on "Algorithmic Transparency."

Background

ICE has contracted with Palantir Technologies, Inc. to build and/or maintain information systems that contain vast amounts of information on individuals, such as the FALCON systems and the Investigative Case Management (ICM) system. In its 2018 Budget in Brief, DHS listed $20.3 million in funding for ICM for FY 2018. In 2014, ICE contracted with Palantir to build and maintain the ICM system for over $41 million.

FALCON Systems

FALCON is a proprietary software product which allows users to search, analyze and visualize complex data sets and serves as ICE’s primary data storage and analysis system. There are several modules in the FALCON system, including FALCON Data Analysis and Research for Trade Transparency System (DARTTS), FALCON Search and Analysis System (SA), and FALCON- Roadrunner System. FALCON-DARTTS looks at anomalies in data related to trade-based crimes, including money laundering, smuggling, and other import-export crimes. FALCON-SA is used “to search, analyze, and visualize volumes of existing information.” And FALCON-Roadrunner is a module within the existing FALCON environment that conducts trend analysis and generates investigative leads related to illegal trafficking of weapons and technology.

Investigative Case Management (ICM) System

The Investigative Case Management (ICM) system is the modernization of ICE’s legacy TECS system. A primary motivation for the modernization project was to enable ICE to more easily link investigative records within and between departments. The ICM system includes the ICM application, which provides case management capabilities, as well as three additional capabilities: “1) an Interface Hub to control the movement of information between ICM and external information repositories; 2) the HSI Data Warehouse to store case information for the purpose of facilitating information sharing and reporting; and 3) the TLS application (and its interface with Pen-Link), which will store case-related telecommunications information obtained via subpoena or other means.”

EPIC’s Interest

EPIC is concerned about the federal government’s use of information systems that include vast amounts of information on individuals. ICE uses products developed and maintained by Palantir to import, aggregate, search, analyze and visualize data from a variety of sources to carry out homeland security investigations; yet, the public knows little about the effectiveness of the systems, extent of training required for use of the systems, constraints on dissemination of data, and mechanisms in place for oversight and accountability. Further, the public has a right to know the amount of information collected in these systems, the capabilities the agency has to analyze these systems, and the extent of access to this information is allowed to other federal agencies, as well as local and state agencies. EPIC has a significant interest in obtaining ICE documents that describe the training material, policies and procedures, agreements, and other documents to have a better understanding of government operations at the border and in the interior.

FOIA Documents

Legal Documents

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 17-2684)

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