Failures

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
dhs, exposed data, hotline, ice, return data, voice



ICE Demands Journalists 'Return' Snitch Hotline Data It Left Exposed For Three Days After Being Notified

from the people-are-awful,-and-ICE-is-no-better dept

Daniel Rivero and Brendan O'Connor of Splinter recently acquired documents pertaining to ICE's snitch program -- a "see something, say something" but for suspected undocumented aliens. What's contained in these documents is nasty, petty abuse of a crime victim hotline by Americans who don't mind turning the government into their own personal army.

This is part of new program started by the Trump Administration -- one presumably meant to pump up numbers for its weekly "Two Minutes Hate" reports, which document the criminal acts of people roaming the county without the proper papers.

Splinter didn't find much evidence backing up the administration's fervent belief that "undocumented" equals "hardened criminal." What it did find was Americans using the VOICE tip line to engage in a low-level variant on SWATting: sending ICE to round up people they just don't like.

In April, the Trump Administration launched what it called the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) hotline, with a stated mission to “provide proactive, timely, adequate, and professional services to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens.” But internal logs of calls to VOICE obtained by Splinter show that hundreds of Americans seized on the hotline to lodge secret accusations against acquaintances, neighbors, or even their own family members, often to advance petty personal grievances.

[...]

Together, the logs are a grim running diary of a country where people eagerly report their fellow residents to the authorities, or seek to bring the power of the immigration police to bear on family disputes.

One man called to report his stepson, who he didn't like parking near his house. Another caller reported some in-laws. One claimed his ex-wife was undocumented. This is the sort of "intelligence" being gathered by the VOICE program. Unbelievably, those reports may be some of the better ones.

In the first two weeks of the program, from April 26 to May 10, the logs show that the call center handled 1,940 calls from across the country. Most were pranks, or in the bureaucratic words of the record keepers, “concerned citizens,” who unleashed streams of profanity or talked about green aliens until the operator hung up.

ICE should have expected this. While the tip line was supposed to be used to find assistance for victims of criminal acts by undocumented immigrants, it became a clearinghouse for BS complaints from "tipsters" hoping to have the government solve their personal problems.

But there's more to this story than the low-grade ugliness of certain Americans. ICE somehow managed to expose a whole lot of personal data while compiling the spreadsheets it turned over to Splinter. The information left out in the open contained details about callers and who those callers were reporting.

[A]fter conducting Google searches for some data in that spreadsheet, including local police report numbers provided by callers, we were able to find a second spreadsheet, covering April to mid-August, hosted on the ICE web site. That spreadsheet appears to have been partially redacted to prepare it for release under the FOIA, but two columns containing intimate personal details—names, cell phone numbers, alleged crimes, addresses, and Social Security numbers—of both callers and the alleged undocumented immigrants they were calling about remained completely unredacted and publicly available. In several cases, the details would make it possible for people to figure out who informed on them.

Why ICE moved a work-in-progress document into a publicly-accessible space is something ICE has yet to explain. The agency has refused to directly respond to queries about the exposed spreadsheet. Nor was it particularly interested in ensuring this personal data remained out of the public's hands. Splinter gave ICE three days' notice before publishing, but the document wasn't removed until several hours after the Splinter article went live.

ICE's official response has been overkill. It took its entire FOIA document library offline on October 4th. As of October 9th, it is still down. Ridiculously, ICE is now demanding Splinter "return" the partially-redacted spreadsheet the agency left exposed online.

On Wednesday, an ICE lawyer sent a letter to Jonathan Schwartz, the chief legal and corporate affairs officer of Splinter’s parent company Univision, demanding that we destroy or return the spreadsheet. The letter, which was sent to Schwartz via UPS as well as emailed to the two Splinter reporters who wrote the story, is the first official acknowledgement that ICE had accidentally published private and potentially dangerous information on its web site for anyone to download. ICE had previously declined to confirm or deny the breach.

I'm sure it's boilerplate, but the wording used suggests ICE wants Splinter to box up all the bits and send them back to ICE HQ. Even stupider, the letter warns Splinter of the consequences of exposing this information, as if it wasn't ICE that exposed the document in the first place.

Please note that any further use or disclosure of the information contained in these records could impede or interfere with law enforcement activities and violate the privacy rights and interests of the people whose information is contained in the records. Further, should you perpetuate the use of disclosure of any of this information, you may endanger the persons to whom the information pertains.

This sounds like ICE is hoping to blame Splinter for any fallout from the exposed data. But this is ICE's fault entirely. As is noted (again) in the follow-up post, Splinter informed ICE of the exposed data three days before publication. The spreadsheet wasn't removed until almost 8 hours after Splinter's post went live. The data has now been accessed by any number of people who won't be affected by ICE's very belated attempt to stuff Pandora's personal data back in the box.

And that brings us to one more salient point: if you're going to hand over personal info to the government, be aware it's repeatedly shown it can't be trusted to keep citizens' data protected. People who thought they were going to get away with turning in exes, stepkids, and in-laws now need to be worried about retaliation from those they snitched on. Others using the line for more legitimate reasons are in no better shape -- victims of crime exposed by the agency they turned to for help.


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  • icon
    hij (profile), 10 Oct 2017 @ 12:17pm

    Really dumb

    This is so dumb and typical of the government. There is nothing stopping the folks at Splinter from just stacking all the bits in the input tray of a copier machine and printing out all kinds of copies for friends and family. Or they could hand them over to the monks at the local scriptorium. Mark my words, one day they will invent other ways to transfer and store information, and that will be the end of this free ride.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 12:18pm

    It is to laugh on many levels. Hahahaha. You act the ass it will eventually catch up to you. I am rolling!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 10 Oct 2017 @ 12:24pm

    impede or interfere with law enforcement activities

    That is hilarious on its face, but do they mean interference with enforcement of law, or do they mean interference with the activities of law enforcement agencies? These concepts tend to display a high degree of orthogonality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 12:34pm

    YOU are assuming it's "good Americans" making the reports,

    not your "antifa", unlimited immigration fellow travelers in order to discredit the program -- EXACTLY as you're doing with it!

    So WHO has benefitted, eh?

    As you've mentioned, biases are easier when you just assume too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 10 Oct 2017 @ 12:47pm

      Re: YOU are assuming it's "good Americans" making the reports,

      Your assumptions, especially about the assumptions of others, are rather enlightening in themselves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 6:52am

        Re: Re: YOU are assuming it's "good Americans" making the reports,

        Assumptions about assumptions about assumptions
        make an ass out of ....

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 10 Oct 2017 @ 1:07pm

      Re: YOU are assuming it's "good Americans" making the reports,

      I like your assumptions on assumptions, because unverified assumptions can be ignored assumptions.
      Can I assume you agree? Done, thank you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 2:59pm

      Re: YOU are assuming it's "good Americans" making the reports,

      Yeah but how does common law fit into this scenario?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 5:41pm

      Re: YOU are assuming it's "good Americans" making the reports,

      out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 6:52am

      Re: YOU are assuming it's "good Americans" making the reports,

      Let's see now ... how to make this about myself - hmmm.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 12 Oct 2017 @ 3:09am

      Re: YOU are assuming it's "good Americans" making the reports,

      "As you've mentioned, biases are easier when you just assume too."

      Yep, that's why you're so entertaining - every one of your posts is based on a false assumption, and it's fun to see you flail around attacking figments of your own imagination.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 12:53pm

    That ridiculous request to "return" the spreadsheet reminds me of that email exchange by David Thorne where he asks a lady to return his spider drawing.
    http://www.27bslash6.com/overdue.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 1:26pm

      Re:

      I saw that, it was hilarious! It shows just how far this can all go, but you have to attempt to accept that you've lost control of information once it's sent along somewhere online.

      "Finders keepers" tends to be the rule with digital data, not the exception.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SoilentG, 10 Oct 2017 @ 1:37pm

    Return?

    ...demanding that we destroy or return the spreadsheet.

    So if I run a pirate site and get closed down by ICE. Can I just have everyone re-upload "return" the files and promise not to do it again?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 Oct 2017 @ 1:37pm

    If I drew them a map, do we think they could find their asses with both hands?

    "and Social Security numbers"
    The number that is currently being misused by criminals around the globe?
    We needed to attach complaints to it?
    The number that Social Security itself has FINALLY decided shouldn't be printed on every Medicare card (starting NEXT year).
    The number that was never meant to be used like this & they are currently looking at expensive stupid ways to replace with magic tech that suffers the same faults?

    We really really need an adult to explain to the government that you can't magically put the genie back in the bottle.
    Once its out in the public you can't bury your heads in the sand and pretend its always been secure.
    Just because you want to ignore your abject failure, the rest of the world isn't required to support the delusion.

    This is a great use of our resources, it shows exactly how petty people are willing to be when they think its secret.
    I wonder how many of these complainants were told this was petty & not actual crime & they wasted resources?
    Or was this just about them being able to show us a huge redacted spreadsheet to show 3000 reports of illegals doing crimes?

    Mean Girls, the Government /Yogurt

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 1:53pm

      Re:

      "Once its out in the public you can't bury your heads in the sand and pretend its always been secure."

      ha ha ha... happens all the fucking time on all sides.

      "Just because you want to ignore your abject failure, the rest of the world isn't required to support the delusion."

      No, but that is what political parties are for... no matter who you are, if you can parlay the issue into a political foot ball the game is on!

      "Or was this just about them being able to show us a huge redacted spreadsheet to show 3000 reports of illegals doing crimes?"

      It's government, it's ran by humans... fudging the numbers is just part of the game.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 1:48pm

    ---Splinter didn't find much evidence backing up the administration's fervent belief that "undocumented" equals "hardened criminal."---

    "undocumented" I love that word.

    I say we should make all things involved in crime as "undocumented".

    Oh look there is a guy with an undocumented "AK-47".
    Sweet, did you see that "undocumented" refusal of service against those black folks?
    Ah, sweet! Those police enforced "undocumented" laws against those perps and shot then to the floor.
    Oh man, these gangs and their "undocumented" drugs and "undocumented" murders...

    You don't need to be a hardened criminal to be illegal folks, grow up.

    ---But internal logs of calls to VOICE obtained by Splinter show that hundreds of Americans seized on the hotline to lodge secret accusations against acquaintances, neighbors, or even their own family members, often to advance petty personal grievances.---

    But were they breaking the law? Yes? Then who gives a fuck why they called it in. If you want to break the law then give people a reason to fuck with ya, then you kinda just made your bed, grow up!

    Pot, Kettle...
    Kettle, Pot!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 3:04pm

      Re:

      Can I give you money? Because I’m sure I could write it off as a gift to the mentally challenged.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 6:58am

      Re:

      "But were they breaking the law? Yes? Then who gives a fuck why they called it in."

      Ok, lets say you forgot to bring in your trash cans on time, according to the HOA ... who just happened to be "driving thru your neighborhood" at that time. You suspect it was your neighbor who ratted you out to the HOA so you rat them out on the yard waste they store outside awaiting trash day ......

      and this sort of juvenile behavior is fine with you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 10 Oct 2017 @ 2:54pm

    Are we surprised?

    I recall an interview with a former prisoner of Abu Ghraib. He lent some money to a neighbor. When he pressured the guy to pay it back, the fellow falsely reported him to the American authorities as an al Qeda terrorist. He spent a year or more in the prison and was tortured and abused before the army decided there was no truth to the allegations.

    people are remarkably careless, petty and cruel with other people's lives all over the world. Why should America be any different?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 4:27pm

    Return?

    It just occurred to me that a lot of people seem to think the Internet is just pieces of paper.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 4:31pm

    Ostergren v. McDonnell

    https://acluva.org/en/press-releases/state-may-not-stop-privacy-advocate-publishing-most-records-fou nd-government-websites

    Court enters order reflecting agreement between AG, Ostergren

    Richmond, VA –In an order signed Wednesday, United States District Court Judge Robert E. Payne ruled that privacy advocate B.J. Ostergren may post public records that contain Social Security Numbers on her website, despite a 2008 Virginia law prohibiting the dissemination of such information.
    The injunction, which was agreed upon by Ostergren and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, prohibits the state from prosecuting Ostergren for posting records that were (1) obtained from out-of-state government websites, (2) obtained from a Virginia circuit court website before it completed the process of redacting Social Security Numbers, (3) obtained from a Virginia circuit court website that has not completed the redaction process, or (4) obtained from a Virginia circuit court website and contain a Social Security Number that was missed in the redaction process and has not yet been redacted.

    Other courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have held that the government cannot make information available to the public, but then restrict what the public can do with it.

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=6705706923791635627&hl=en&as_sdt=6&as_vis=1& amp;oi=scholarr
    Ostergren v. McDonnell


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Star_v._B._J._F.

    Florida Star v. B. J. F., 491 U.S. 524 (1989), is a United States Supreme Court case involving freedom of the press and privacy rights. After The Florida Star newspaper accidentally revealed the full name of a rape victim it got from a police report, the victim sued for damages. State law made it illegal for a publication to print a rape victim's name, and the victim was awarded damages. On appeal, the Supreme Court ruled the imposition of damages for truthfully publishing public information violates the First Amendment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2017 @ 5:25pm

      Re: Ostergren v. McDonnell

      You do understand that the Government is not exactly following any rules right? It just ignores any and all laws as it sees fit.

      Meanwhile people here at TD bitch about the corruption of the government while simultaneously advocating for it to have even more power. There is a lot of special kind of stupid running around in the world. It is the year 2017 and nothing new is under the sun. People are still ignorant know-it-all's full of hubris and apathy for their fellow man. Any person making attempts to fix the system are quickly descended upon by all sides.

      There is a reason revolutions are always bloody, people refuse to listen to reason to the point where they have to be ended for anything to progress.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 7:06am

        Re: Re: Ostergren v. McDonnell

        You "reasons" seem a tad off.

        One big reason for protest/revolt is being forced into things based solely upon the desires of others for "progress" of their pet projects/agendas that many find to be wrong.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 11 Oct 2017 @ 7:29am

        Re: Re: Ostergren v. McDonnell

        Meanwhile people here at TD bitch about the corruption of the government while simultaneously advocating for it to have even more power.

        You need to lurk moar. We advocate for greater accountability, not more power for the government.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 1:04am

    Every time I see one of these demands to return digital data left improperly secured, I hope that someone will send them a bunch of ones and zeros with a note saying this is all we have, but their order got mixed up. Feel free to place them in the correct order.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 6:25am

    Govt: You criminal, return the chicken wings we accidentally gave you 3 days ago, NOW!

    Person: But I ate it, it was publicly available for consumption!

    Govt: We don't care. Give it back now! *sues*

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 11 Oct 2017 @ 3:51pm

    How many employees does the company have? Tell ICE that they accidentally sent it to all their employees, and then "return" 500+ copies to ICE. The best part is that they can continue finding and "returning" copies for an indefinite period of time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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