ICE rolls out new data tool

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has established a new system for automatically discovering links in information from various databases for the purpose of investigating people suspected of violating customs and immigration laws.

The system, named ICE Pattern Analysis and Information Collection (ICEPIC), presents some privacy risks to individuals whose personal information is being investigated. However, those risks have been mitigated, according to a Privacy Impact Assessment released by the Homeland Security Department.

ICEPIC looks for unexpected new links between individuals and groups among databases collected by law enforcement agencies and supplemented by information from commercial databases. The system looks for patterns and links between databases, similar to what data mining programs do, but it is not a data mining program in the privacy impact assessment.

"ICEPIC allows ICE law enforcement agents and analysts to look for non-obvious relationship patterns among individuals and organizations that are indicative of violations of the customs and immigration laws that are enforced by DHS agencies, as well as possible terrorist threats and plots," the privacy assessment states. "From these relationships, ICE agents will develop specific leads and intelligence for active and new investigations. Identified relationships will also be recorded for reuse in subsequent investigative analyses."

The primary users of ICEPIC will be ICE law enforcement agents and analysts. However, information technology contractors working on the system also will have access to the information. To protect privacy, those contractors will have limited privileges and there will be auditing to ensure that those privileges are not breached, the privacy impact states.

ICEPIC provides an example of how privacy risks are being identified and managed at DHS. Some of the management involves imposing rules on IT contractors working on the systems that present privacy risks.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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