Utility Companies to Stop Sharing Data With ICE

Utility Companies to Stop Sharing Data With ICE Utility Companies to Stop Sharing Data With ICE (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

By Nick Koutsobinas | Wednesday, 08 December 2021 06:09 PM

A group of national utility companies has agreed to stop sharing sensitive data with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as other government agencies over concerns that the data was being misused.

The Washington Post reports that the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange prompted credit bureau Equifax to end the sale of what is known as utility header data. On Wednesday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., revealed in a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that NCTUE had in Oct. instructed Equifax to stop selling the utility header data, which includes some 170 million people's names, Social Security numbers, and home addresses, to government agencies.

Recently, a spokesperson for NCTUE told The Hill that the exchange has "worked with its members to end the practice of licensing members' header data to third parties."

"I'm happy to see that after my investigation, utility companies have stopped allowing Americans' personal data to be sold to shady data brokers and then to the government," Wyden tweeted. "But credit agencies are continuing to misuse and abuse Americans' data they receive from banks."

Members of immigrant rights groups praised the decision to end the sale of data from utility companies to immigration enforcement agencies.

Jacinta Gonzalez, senior campaign director at Mijente, says that "cutting off this data pipeline from the source is a major development as part of our campaign to put an end to ICE's use of tech surveillance to harm immigrants."

She adds that "now we need a guarantee that data brokers will not use utility data in any of the products or services, that they will erase all past data as well as stop collecting utility data in the future."

Earlier this year, Wyden, alongside Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced legislation called The Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act to close loopholes that allow the government to purchase American's sensitive data information from data brokers.

The bill would require government agencies to obtain a warrant before garnering any data.

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