Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stated on Monday that they accidentally posted a document containing information on about 6,252 immigrants seeking protection who are currently in their custody, according to the Los Angeles Times. The document, uploaded on a public-facing website, was available for all to see for about five hours until the department realized what had happened.
ICE noted that the accidental posting happened while performing routine updates. Immigrant advocacy group Human Rights First was the first to flag the breach. “Though unintentional, this release of information is a breach of policy and the agency is investigating the incident and taking all corrective actions necessary,” ICE said.
As the Times notes, this breach is dangerous because the data might have directly placed immigrants at risk of retaliation from the individuals, gangs, and governments they are fleeing. The Excel spreadsheet included 6,252 immigrants’ names, case statuses, and detention locations. Federal regulations make it clear that all information regarding asylum seekers must be kept secret.
“Any breach of asylum seeker information in such a public way could quite literally have life or death consequences and the government must take every precaution to protect their safety,” Blaine Bookey, the legal director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco,
ICE stated they would analyze IP addresses to establish which entities accessed the spreadsheet while it was publicly available and instruct people and organizations to destroy any files they may have received. The agency will also notify those impacted or their attorneys of the disclosure, allowing them to determine if it will affect their claim for protection from the U.S. government.