Does it count as domestic spying or government data-gathering if a private contractor does it?
The Obama Administration’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, is soliciting a contract for a private vendor that will help the agency track the movement of illegal aliens via license plate readers. The federal government specifically wants access to a license plate reader database that adds 30 million new records every month, and features images captured by both government and privately owned cameras and license plate readers.
“ICE is neither seeking to build nor contribute to any public or private LPR [license plate reader] database. ICE will use LPR information obtained in response to queries of the commercial database to further its criminal law enforcement and civil immigration enforcement missions,” the solicitation reads.The government wants photos of license plates in the database to come “from a variety of governmental and private sources including, but not limited to, access control systems such as toll road or parking lot cameras, vehicle repossession companies, and law enforcement agencies.”
In February, ICE and the Department of Homeland Security expressed interest in building a database that housed license plate reader information from around the country. The newest proposal, posted to a federal government contracting website on April 2, does not involve ICE owning or building any license plate databases, but rather using a vendor’s database for its own enforcement and tracking purposes.
ICE wants its agents and employees to have access to the database through both desktop and mobile computing devices. The proposal asks vendors for “an iOS-compatible mobile application” that would allow users to access the database from any location.
Further, the system would allow for up to 2,500 license plate numbers to be uploaded to an “Alert List” that would be constantly queried against the millions of records in the database. ICE envisions that, “Any matches will result in a near real-time notification to the user who queried the license plate number.”
How many government workers would have access to this database is not completely clear, but the proposal does ask would-be vendors to put together a price package for up to 3,000 individual users.
The Obama Administration has previously taken steps to reduce immigration enforcement efforts in the face of an intractable public debate over immigration laws. How a plan to increase tracking of those in the nation illegally will sit with advocates of reduced immigration law enforcement, who frequently support the president politically, remains to be seen.
ICE Solicitation: HSCEDM-15-R-00006_(Final)