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New ICE system permits officials to upload individuals' data from commercial databases

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it's rolling out a law enforcement system that allows Homeland Security Investigations officials to search, analyze and visualize data about individuals collected by the Homeland Security Department or bought from commercial sources.

In a privacy impact assessment (.pdf) dated Nov. 2, DHS says the system is called FALCON Search & Analysis, or FALCON-SA. The system will routinely ingest data, typically once every 48 hours, from other DHS systems such as lookout records generated by ICE or Customs and Border Protection for border screening, law enforcement reports, and data about customs seizures.

With supervisory approval, FALCON-SA users can also upload data on an ad hoc basis, including data from commercial databases such as Dunn & Bradstreet or Thomson Reuters' CLEAR database, which contains information on individuals. In addition, ICE officials can add news articles. Data loaded on an ad hoc basis is subject to the typical 20 year ICE retention period, the privacy impact analysis states.

ICE officials use FALCON-SA to generate intelligence products and can organize the information within it temporarily or geographically. The system can also "present a chart showing relational links between individuals and/or organizations whose data is stored in the system," the assessment states. With permission, ICE officials can extract a visualization from FALCON-SA for use in another system.

Every word or alphanumeric string in FALCON-SA--whether ingested routinely by it or uploaded by agents--is indexed and searchable. The system also captures metadata.

Concurrent with the assessment of FALCON-SA, DHS also released a Nov. 2 privacy impact assessment (.pdf) for a new tipline dubbed FALCON Tipline, or FALCON-TL. Through it, ICE will collect tips submitted online or through a toll-free number about "ports of suspicious activity or suspected illegal activity." Once a record of a tip is made, it's forwarded to FALCON-SA.

For more:
- download the FALCON-SA PIA (.pdf)
- download the FALCON-TL PIA (.pdf)

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