"The most aggressive monitoring system in history was tested in the Latino population," said Álvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Center for Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University. And he explains: "I came to the US in 1987. From 1992, every time I called my grandmother in Peru, the Justice Department was recording the conversation with all calls from the US to all countries. Latin Americans, under the pretext of controlling drug trafficking, but not all of us were drug traffickers, logically. " Bedoya puts this example, a massive surveillance launched twenty years before the revelations of Edward Snowden, to illustrate that the immigrant population always suffers first experiments with new technologies of surveillance and control. If it is successful with this vulnerable group, and society does not respond against it, it ends up spreading to the rest of society, as would happen with the massive eavesdropping later allowed by George W. Bush.
"The vulnerability of migrants is exploited to test methods and technologies," warns Galdon
Scandals like that of Cambridge Analytica They have updated the abuses that can be committed with databases and other digital content, which serve to form increasingly detailed profiles about citizens. But migrants, de facto deprived of almost every right when trying to cross a border, are especially exposed to these abuses. The collection of biometric records, the monitoring of social networks or the abuse of confidential data becomes their downfall when this information is disseminated by mistake or intentionally. "It takes advantage of the situation of vulnerability of migrants to do things with them that would not be done with citizens, it serves to test methods and technologies," warns Gemma Galdon, specialist in the social impact of technology and Director of Ethics. Therefore, many specialists warn of this situation and demand the creation of so-called digital sanctuaries, environments that prevent the collection and dissemination of damaging data for migrants and refugees.
"Now there is a lot of discussion about whether we are going towards a police state, but many communities already live in that police state: for example, the Latin people of the United States," says Bedoya, one of the most prominent jurists in the field of justice. protection of digital privacy. When Trump published the decree to prohibit entry from Muslim countries, he also authorized the elaboration of profiles to evaluate if an immigrant was going to contribute to society, even with "constant monitoring of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, to get them out of the country", Bedoya complaint. This expert recounts numerous examples of databases that are exploited to harm migrants, such as automatic license plate reading from Vigilant, which serves to know the location of any vehicle and that is put in the hands of the Immigration Service to locate expatriates.
The British Government used a map of London beggars, created to protect them, to locate immigrants to deport
The International Rights Frontier of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Katitza Rodríguez, explains that, in some cases, the refugee must give their personal data (name, place of origin and even their biometric data) to have access to humanitarian aid. "If the database is mismanaged, it can be used by other agencies for non-humanitarian purposes, for example, crossing such humanitarian information with location data, consumption habits, the refugee's financial situation," says Rodríguez. Similarly, Bedoya gives as an example the fears that the immigrant community of the United States has when going to the hospital or school, because many data are generated that are not protected and that in many cases end up in the hands of Immigration: "A source of data that historically has been used to help the most vulnerable population is used to improve the numbers of deportations, they are collected for one reason and used for others. "
It is not something that happens only in the US and under the Trump Administration. In the United Kingdom an agreement has been denounced to share databases, signed by the Ministries of Health and of the Interior, together with the National Health Service, to access confidential information of patients that helps with the work of immigration control. There was precisely another clear case of malicious abuse of a humanitarian data collection: the British Ministry of the Interior used a map of beggars, created to protect those who sleep in the streets of London, to locate immigrants who can be deported.
Technology that condemns
"Technology sometimes saves and sometimes condemns," Galdon sums up. That is why, together with the concept of the sanctuary city, places where immigrants can feel safe in the face of deportation policies, the need to create these digital sanctuaries arises. "Places where they can access services without sharing data that put them in danger", in the words of the ethics director. "We have to make sure that they can live without a permanent fear of relating to the world," Bedoya adds, and a town hall "can do a lot to guarantee that care of the data, collect only the necessary data or erase it after a while". "Most authorities believe that collecting data can only be good: 'Let's collect more, improve systems, services …', laments Bedoya, who coordinated the privacy subcommittee of the US Senate.
"Governments should not point out migrants and subject them to invasive surveillance of social networks simply because they are," says Rodríguez
"There are few antibodies to understand what technology is used and what is not," says Galdon, who points out that humanitarian organizations and even the United Nations are taking DNA samples or biometric records "with the best of intentions", but that can cause many ills. An investigation by the University of Washington showed that Most humanitarian organizations do not take the necessary measures to protect this data. "These biometric data prevent people from forgetting their past, they become people who do not have the right to be forgotten, because at any time they can remember it again," he complains.
"Security flaws in data protection can have a high price for those affected, but for refugees and their families in their country of origin they can be life threatening," says Katitza Rodríguez. "Governments should not point out migrants and subject them to invasive surveillance of social networks simply because they are," says Rodríguez. The spokesperson of EFF highlights how the right to freedom of expression and association are reduced to ashes by a government that seeks to gather information about them: "For example, by documenting the chronicle of their beliefs and opinions published on social networks, with the mapping of their social networks, by tracking their movements, and permanently storing this information in a government database, and using it against them when making decisions about their immigration status, or for a host of other purposes. "