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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Trump administration is using private data to monitor immigration and the border, thanks to a massive database of cellphone records it purchased from private vendors.

Why it matters: Experts are concerned about the scale and use of the data, even if it appears to be on firm legal footing, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • "This is a classic situation where creeping commercial surveillance in the private sector is now bleeding directly over into government," said Alan Butler, general counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, to the Journal.

Between the lines: The government is quickly putting this data to use alongside its own increased collection.

  • ICE "has used the data to help identify immigrants who were later arrested."
  • The border patrol "uses the information to look for cellphone activity in unusual places, such as remote stretches of desert that straddle the Mexican border."
  • The government is collecting some migrants’ DNA at the border and fingerprinting teenagers.
  • “These are the kinds of tools that will help ICE become more surgical over time, I just don’t trust that under this administration it will be used appropriately,” former acting ICE director John Sandweg told Axios' Stef Kight.

The big picture: In the U.S., the government seems to be leaning ever more into its ability to weaponize big data, reports Axios tech editor Kyle Daly.

  • This is part of an ongoing trend where the U.S. government simultaneously tries to rein in how major tech companies use personal data while government agencies seek to harness those troves of data, per Axios' Sara Fischer and Scott Rosenberg.
  • China and other authoritarian countries already use vast troves of data on their own citizens to stifle dissent and political opposition.

The bottom line: This adds to concerns about the tech industry's model of amassing hoards of data and assuring people it is fine because it gets anonymized.

Go deeper: Government wants access to personal data while it pushes privacy

Go deeper

California wildfire explodes in size, destroys historic town

Battalion Chief Sergio Mora looks on as the Dixie fire burns through downtown Greenville, Calif. on Aug. 4, 2021. Photo: Josh EdelsonAFP via Getty Images

The small Sierra town of Greenville, California, was heavily damaged on Wednesday night into early Thursday as the Dixie Fire surged northward amid high winds, extremely dry air and hot temperatures.

The latest: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze, continued to threaten communities in Plumas County into Thursday night, as more mandatory evacuation orders were issued in the region.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Top labor leader Richard Trumka dies unexpectedly at 72

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who led the largest federation of unions in the country for over a decade, has died at 72.

The big picture: Trumka began working as a coal miner in 1968 and would go on to dedicate his life to the labor movement, including as president of the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO beginning in 2009.

Biden signs bill awarding Congressional Gold Medals to officers who responded to Jan. 6 attack

President Biden, joined by Vice President Harris, lawmakers and members of law enforcement and their families, signs legislation to award Congressional Gold Medals to law enforcement in the Rose Garden. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Biden signed legislation awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress' "highest expression of national appreciation," notes the New York Times.

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