- ICE’s RAVEn tool organizes public and private data to build cases against unauthorized workers.
- Sen. Wyden and a union of Google workers speak out about RAVEn, following Insider investigation.
- Immigrant rights groups Mijente and Just Futures Law also express concern about the system.
Sen. Ron Wyden expressed alarm after an Insider investigation revealed details of RAVEn, a powerful data-mining and analytics tool that private companies are developing for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Insider reported this week that representatives from more than 200 companies, including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, attended a RAVEn industry day in April, seeking more information about three contracts for the tool that are worth a combined total of up to $300 million. The system has already been used to target people not authorized to work in the US. It’s unclear which companies have bid, or plan to bid, on these contracts.
In a statement, Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, focused on RAVEn’s ability to access people’s sensitive data from private sources.
“I’m particularly concerned by evidence suggesting that ICE is buying its way around the Fourth Amendment to obtain access to Americans’ financial and location information from shady data brokers without any judicial oversight,” he said.
RAVEn, abbreviated from Repository for Analytics in a Virtualized Environment, ingests information from tens of thousands of sources, including “non-public online information” sometimes from “private sector partners,” according to documents obtained by Insider. A privacy assessment noted that RAVEn can access financial information, like “data on suspicious financial activity, currency transaction reports, and currency or monetary instrument reports.”
Sen. Wyden said that purchasing this type of data would violate a bill he introduced in April that would close a legal loophole allowing data brokers to sell Americans’ personal information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies without court oversight.
The Alphabet Workers Union, which has more than 800 members from Google’s parent company Alphabet, expressed frustration about a company representative attending the RAVEn industry day.
“Google should not apply for this contract,” the Alphabet Workers Union said in a tweet Wednesday. “#NoTechForICE.” Earlier this week, a Google spokesperson declined to comment on whether the company will be involved in RAVEn.
“Ads basically prints money and yet the company continues vying to work with some of the absolute worst people alive,” Rob Ruenes, a Google worker and organizer with the Alphabet Workers Union, tweeted Wednesday. “For what??”
Alphabet is being challenged in court by the National Labor Relations Board for allegedly firing employees illegally. Among other things, the employees were allegedly punished for getting information about the company’s work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and distributing a petition about the issue.
Since work on RAVEn began in 2018, the tool has been used to examine more than 55,000 I-9 employment documents, looking for evidence of people who aren’t legally authorized to work in the U.S., as well as 780,000 I-213 documents, which are personal history forms filled out when immigration agents take someone into custody.
Immigrant rights groups, including Mijente, are concerned about how ICE is using RAVEn. “If you work at any of these corporations, demand your employer not apply for this contract,” Mijente tweeted on Wednesday.
Mijente also urged people to reach out to the representatives from Google and Amazon who attended the industry day event and ask them not to bid on any of the RAVEn contracts.
Just Futures Law, a coalition of lawyers focused on immigration rights, also expressed alarm. “RAVeN is a powerful tool in the AI arsenal DHS is building without oversight and accountability, creating yet another path to criminalization and deportation,” the group wrote on Twitter. “DHS must stop expanding these tools.”
Do you have information about RAVEn, the bidding process, or another government contract Insider should know about? Contact this reporter at [email protected] or [email protected], or via secure messaging app Signal, using a non-work device, at +1 (785) 813-1084.