Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Peter Thiel’s data analysis company Palantir reportedly used Facebook to track down an alleged child predator.
According to the Intercept, who obtained “a string of emails and documents,” ICE has used “backend Facebook data to locate and track suspects.” The case highlighted by the Intercept is that of an alleged child predator that was tracked down using the data.
“In February and March of 2017, several ICE agents were in communication with a detective from Las Cruces, New Mexico, to find information about a particular person. They were ultimately able to obtain backend Facebook data revealing a log of when the account was accessed and the IP addresses corresponding to each login,” the Intercept explained. “Lea Whitis, an agent with Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of ICE, emailed the team a ‘Facebook Business Record’ revealing the suspect’s phone number and the locations of each login into his account during a date range.”
In their tracking efforts, ICE also reportedly worked with Palantir, a data analysis company co-founded by libertarian billionaire and Trump-supporter Peter Thiel.
“I am going to see if our Palantir guy is here to dump the Western Union info in there since I know there is a way to triangulate the area he’s sending money from and narrow down time of day etc,” wrote one ICE agent in an email leaked to the Intercept.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesman denied claims that ICE had any “special data access.”
“Facebook does not provide ICE or any other law enforcement agency with any special data access to assist with the enforcement of immigration law. We have strict processes in place to handle these government requests,” the company claimed. “Every request we receive is checked for legal sufficiency. We require officials to provide a detailed description of the legal and factual basis for their request, and we push back when we find legal deficiencies or overly broad or vague demands for information.”
“In this case, our records show that ICE sent valid legal process to us in an investigation said to involve an active child predator. We take the enforcement of laws protecting children from child predators very seriously, and we responded to ICE’s valid request with data consistent with our publicly available data disclosure standards,” they concluded. “ICE did not identify any immigration law violations in connection with its data request to Facebook in this case.”