SECRETIVE APP PROMISES TO AID ILLEGAL BORDER CROSSINGS
Creators claim technology will alert users to cameras, fences & border patrol agents
A secretive cell phone app is reportedly being designed to aid illegal immigration into the U.S.
Known as “Bienvenidos,” the Spanish word for “Welcome,” the app purports to help navigate the treacherous U.S.-Mexico border by alerting users to a range of obstacles and threats.
The anonymous creators of Bienvenidos attempted to pitch their app this month to numerous media outlets before suddenly reversing their announcement. A YouTube video explaining the technology was inexplicably deleted while the Bienvenidos website became password-protected.
“All content has been taken down and currently unavailable,” a message to reporters said Wednesday. “Apologies for the confusion, but we’re holding off on our announcement after all for the time being.”
According to Motherboard’s Brian Anderson, one of the journalists initially contacted by the Bienvenidos team, the technology has been heralded as “the world’s first community-based navigation app for migration.”
ICE is about to start tracking license plates across the US
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month. The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians.
The source of the data is not named in the contract, but an ICE representative said the data came from Vigilant Solutions, the leading network for license plate recognition data. “Like most other law enforcement agencies, ICE uses information obtained from license plate readers as one tool in support of its investigations,” spokesperson Dani Bennett said in a statement. “ICE is not seeking to build a license plate reader database, and will not collect nor contribute any data to a national public or private database through this contract.”
Reached by The Verge, Vigilant declined to confirm any contract with ICE. “As policy, Vigilant Solutions is not at liberty to share any contractual details,” the company said in a statement. “This is a standard agreement between our company, our partners, and our clients.”
While it collects few photos itself, Vigilant Solutions has amassed a database of more than 2 billion license plate photos by ingesting data from partners like vehicle repossession agencies and other private groups. Vigilant also partners with local law enforcement agencies, often collecting even more data from camera-equipped police cars. The result is a massive vehicle-tracking network generating as many as 100 million sightings per month, each tagged with a date, time, and GPS coordinates of the sighting.
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