Oversight Subcommittee Launches Investigation into Sale of Utility Customer Info to ICE for Deporting Immigrants
Washington, D.C. (Feb. 26, 2021)—Today, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, and Rep. Jimmy Gomez, Vice Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent letters to Thomson Reuters and Equifax, Inc. requesting documents and information regarding the sale of utility customers’ data to U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE).
“We are concerned that the commercialization of personal and use data of utility customers and sale of broad access to ICE is an abuse of privacy, and that ICE’s use of this database is an abuse of power,” wrote Krishnamoorthi and Gomez. “Because CLEAR is a private database, ICE’s access through a subscription appears to evade the federal Privacy Act’s protections governing the federal government’s collection, maintenance, and use of personal information.”
Thomson Reuters advertises its CLEAR database as “the most comprehensive utility locator information on the market,” with “more than 30 million utility data records (e.g., names, addresses, service information) from more than 80 national and regional electric, cable, gas, and telephone companies.” Thomson Reuters has stated that utility records are especially useful for targeting “people who are not easily traceable through traditional sources.”
The CLEAR database uses detailed information about utility customers provided by consumer reporting agency Equifax. Equifax stores and manages a database of utility data containing information for over 217 million unique customers, for a consortium of utility companies called the National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange.
Under the Trump Administration, ICE reportedly paid $20.6 million for a subscription to CLEAR, from January 19, 2017, to February 28, 2021, for access to CLEAR’s vast array of personal data that ICE uses to surveil and target undocumented immigrants in the communities in which they live. Reportedly, some ICE officials continue to deport people—and may be using CLEAR to do that—in defiance of President Biden’s orders.
Click here to read the letter to Equifax, Inc.
Click here to read the letter to Thomson Reuters Corporation.