In this photo illustration, the Thomson Reuters Corporation Mass media company logo is seen displayed on a smartphone. Photo illustration: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.
In this photo illustration, the Thomson Reuters Corporation Mass media company logo is seen displayed on a smartphone. Photo illustration: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

ICE gives a bad rep: The push for Thomson Reuters to cut its contracts with the agency


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Thomson Reuters is behind one of the most trusted news sources in the world.

However, the data and media company has come under new scrutiny and pressure to revisit its contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the basis of their selling of private information to the agency is subject to human rights abuses. 

Thomson Reuters, which also runs the Reuters news agency, has held contracts with ICE since 2015. It provided the agency with “Clear” software that aids in helping agents track down targets for deportation. The software does not contain data on one’s legal and work status, reported The Guardian, but it does monitor vehicles and arrest databases. 

While the contract with ICE expired in February 2021, and ICE hasn’t had a subscription contract for “Clear” since April 2021, Thomson Reuters’ shareholders will vote in an upcoming meeting on whether it should revisit the human rights impact of its software contracts, including the expired one with ICE. 

Thomson Reuters is still working with ICE, even though it no longer has this specific contract, continuing to provide the agency with software to monitor immigrants, monitor activists and facilitate deportations with the information. 

These contracts, according to Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign organizer for the human advocacy group Mijente, bring up “huge” human rights implications, but it also opens a crucial conversation on data selling — and how quickly it can get into the hands of agencies known for being rogue and violent.  

The issue of Thomson Reuters, in part, is their news company, Reuters

“They’re supposed to be dedicated to exposing the truth, to making sure that we’re well informed, making sure that information is helping us have healthier and more informed conversations about the world around us,” Gonzalez said. 

What’s happening is because the data business is so new and lucrative, companies like Thomson Reuters have realized that the business of selling and sharing information with police departments is fiscally worth the shift in practice. 

“Companies like Thomson Reuters want to have the reputation of being a media company, while selling information and actually being a data broker, and so we want to call it out for what it is,” Gonzalez said. 

In a Twitter thread, Mijente published all the details on the company’s case, calling for it to end its contracts with ICE. 

“We're calling on everyone to demand @ThomsonReuters cancel its contracts w/ICE. They've made millions selling software services to ICE, turbocharging their deportation practices & creating fear in immigrant communities.That must end,” Mijente wrote on Twitter.

ICE gives a bad name

This is the relationship that’s being challenged, and will be seen to an end within a week. 

Shareholders are calling on Thomson Reuters to investigate whether its contracts violate human rights, and the kicker is that ISS and Glass Lewis, two of the biggest shareholders, initially agreed to investigate, leaving room for other investors to also vote in favor. 

It led to a realization for human rights groups like Mijente: This indicates that more companies are beginning to understand that having a business relationship and contracts with ICE is risky business and bad for their reputation.

“What we’re doing is sending a really concrete message to the company that continuing to function as a data broker for ICE, is actually bad for business and is something that they should really take a second look at,” Gonzalez said. 

There are human rights implications to working with ICE — Mijente and other organizations already know this as a fact. The question is whether or not its business is going to consider it. 

The broader point, according to Gonzalez, is that not only are these companies selling information to ICE, they’re also selling information to local police, moving farther away from how they function as a media company.

The upcoming shareholder meeting is an opportunity to look inward. The issue is the lack of monitoring in the data industry, and the human implications that come as a result of greed.  

“These companies are creating ways for ICE agents to target our community without having the basic constitutional protections that they should be able to offer. So if ICE agents can’t get your address in a way that’s constitutional, they don't have to worry about it,” Gonzales said. 

“They can buy it from Thomson Reuters.”

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