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Immigration Advocates Say LexisNexis Sells Personal Info to Feds

— August 18, 2022

The groups claim that LexisNexis sells personal data to immigration authorities, allowing I.C.E. to obtain sensitive information that would otherwise only be accessible with a warrant.

A coalition of immigration advocacy organizations have filed a lawsuit against LexisNexis, alleging that the legal services provider and data broker violated Illinois law by selling personal information to third parties, including federal law enforcement agencies.

According to CBS News, the immigration organizations claim that LexisNexis’ alleged violations of Illinois privacy laws pose “a great threat to civil liberties.”

The plaintiffs have since asked a Cook County judge to issue an order barring LexisNexis from selling personal information without first obtaining explicit consent.

The lawsuit, adds CBS News, also alleges that LexisNexis’ Accurint product, which is sold exclusively to law enforcement, includes information that is not ordinarily publicly available, including correctional bookings, vehicle collision records, and license plate reader databases.

In their complaint, the immigration groups say that Accurint effectively provides a work-around to search warrants, allowing law enforcement to obtain sensitive personal information they would ordinarily need a warrant to access.

“Using Accurint, law enforcement officers can surveil and track people based on information these officers would not, in many cases, otherwise be able to obtain without a subpoena, court order, or other legal process,” the lawsuit alleges, saying that LexisNexis’ technology enables “a massive surveillance state with files on almost every adult U.S. consumer.”

. Image via Wikimedia Commons/public domain/no license.

Sejal Zota, the legal director of Just Futures Law and an attorney involved in the lawsuit, told The Associated Press that LexisNexis makes it possible for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to “instantly access sensitive personal data—all without warrants, subpoenas, any privacy safeguards or any show of reasonableness.”

“Our plaintiffs view this alleged violation of their privacy as dehumanizing and unacceptable,” Zota said.

The lawsuit includes several accounts from individuals who say that Accurint includes information such as their full addresses, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers.

“There is a critical difference between the gathering of bits of personal information through publicly available resources (the internet, court files, archives, etc.) and the collection of information through an encyclopedic dossier that compiles all of the records, including ones that are not publicly available, into one easily accessible and computerized profile,” the complaint says.

Antonio Gutierrez, strategic coordinator and co-founder of Organized Communities Against Deportation, told The Associated Press that his organization is supporting the lawsuit because they believe that databases like LexisNexis’ Accurint are a means for I.C.E. to circumvent existing limits.

Gutierrez said that Accurint allows I.C.E. to escape accountability under carefully constructed state laws, which intend to shield vulnerable migrants from federal persecution.

“We just wondered, ‘How do we fight this?’” Gutierrez said. “The entity that needs to be held accountable for how they’re operating is LexisNexis.”


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