The Technology Behind ICE

January 28, 2019

What do databases, the cloud and a morally unjust immigration system have in common? It turns out: quite a lot.

According to a recent report from mijente, “technology companies [are] playing an increasingly central role in facilitating the expansion and acceleration of arrests, detentions, and deportations.”

In the course of researching Palantir, the relatively unknown software company with huge Department of Homeland Security contracts (founded by the famously right-wing Peter Thiel), mijente discovered that many roads lead back to a much more familiar company: Amazon.

According to the report:

Amazon has moved from being the one-stop shop for consumers of every kind to the biggest broker of cloud storage space on the planet… AWS serves as the key contractor in DHS’ migration of the agency’s $6.8 billion information technology (IT) portfolio to the cloud. Amazon, now the wealthiest company on the planet, has more federal authorizations to maintain government data from a variety of government agencies than any other tech company … serving as DHS’s database for immigration case management systems and biometric data for 230 million unique identities — mostly fingerprint records, alongside 36.5 million face records and 2.8 million irises.

Mijente’s discovery is particularly troubling given the dependence of the movement on Amazon. Many organization, such as those using NationBuilder or SalesForce, may not even realize that all of their data is stored on servers run by a company with deep ties to the Department of Homeland Security.

We suspect that this discovery of a link between a growing corporate technology behemoth and critical movement issues will be followed by many more similar discoveries.

As a movement, we have been focused on our growing dependence on technology. This anxiety, particularly of older activists around our ability to keep up with the technology, has obscured a far more troubling trend: the relationship between technology, capitalism and the state.

Our movement has proven time and time again that we can not only keep up with new technology, but can even lead that development. The question that remains is: what technology are we keeping up with? And how are leading it?

If you are interested in getting involved, the Progressive Technology Project has been working closely with May First/People Link and the Center for Media Justice to try and answer this very question via the Technology and Revolution Campaign. Drop us a line if you want to join us.