When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) goes about their business of kicking in doors or camping outside hospitals to detain undocumented residents they’re not always doing it with the help of informants. There’s a lot of technology behind the act of pin-pointing targets; it takes smart minds to get this technology together, and even smarter minds to design it. Some of those minds are at Amazon.
“A handful of huge corporations, like Amazon Web Services and Palantir, have built a ‘revolving door’ to develop and entrench Silicon Valley’s role in fueling the incarceration and deportation regime,” claims an October report from Mijente, the National Immigration Project, and the Immigrant Defense Project.
According to research, about 10 percent of the Department of Homeland Security’s $44 billion budget is dedicated to managing reams of data resulting from “unprecedented levels of surveillance, detention and deportation” under the Trump administration. New technology is necessary to keep all that info chugging along, including smart software and massive, searchable databases. The report claims this software has dangerously accelerated surveillance by police and prosecutors and has created “an infrastructure that … fuels discriminatory policing practices targeting people of color.”
Palantir, which specializes in big data analytics, has facilitated the “mining and accumulation of data” from DMV records, utility bills, healthcare provider information, cell phone records, biometric databases, and social media accounts, among other sources.
It’s also allowed “unprecedented” data sharing between multiple levels of law enforcement, which effectively undermines the municipal policies of many sanctuary cities that do not wish to play a role in ICE’s disruption of families or economy. Palantir’s snoopy ways haven’t evolved much since the Intercept accused them of helping expand and accelerate the NSA’s infamous global spy network.
Amazon Web Services, which the report (PDF link) claims is “the biggest broker of cloud storage space on the planet,” gets special recognition for its willingness to allow access to its cloud. Palantir’s searchable database is impressive, but it still needs a home. Amazon is the electronic universe that sustains it.
The web service now serves as “the key contractor in DHS’ migration of the agency’s $6.8 billion information technology (IT) portfolio to the cloud,” claims the report. The company, which just recently hit the $1 trillion mark in value, has more federal authorizations to maintain government data than any other tech company on earth.
Mijente claims Amazon holds a total of 204 authorizations, compared to Microsoft’s 150, Salesforce’s 31, and Google’s 27. It not only serves as DHS’s database for immigration case management systems, but also retains biometric data for 230 million unique identities, along with 36.5 million face records and 2.8 million recordings of iris scans.
All this information is being funneled into the hands of somebody who refers to Latino immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists.” It’s an ugly situation that Mijente member Angelica Chazaro would very much like to disrupt.
“Our vision will continue to evolve in the months and years to come, but we remain grounded in a commitment to free our future from the Trump regime,” Chazaro stated in a press release.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen never addressed privacy concerns. Grit Post’s calls to phone numbers registered to Bezos and Nielsen were not returned as of this writing.