Richmond city council severs ties with data brokers who share personal information with ICE

The Richmond City Council on Tuesday voted 6-1 to prevent the city's businesses and investment funds from using data broker companies that share personal information with ICE.

It's the first council in the country to vote on this type of prohibition, said Brian Hofer, a member of Deport Ice and the chair of the Oakland of the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission. He said Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda are considering similar ordinances this summer. 

There are only six companies on the list and among those, two in the Bay Area: Palantir Technologies in Palo Alto and Vigilant Solutions in Livermore.

Richmond currently does business with Vigilant, but the vote means the city will not renew its contract, unless a compelling reason is provided otherwise by the police chief, Hofer said. 

Representatives from Palantir did not immediately respond for comment. Vigilant sent KTVU an email on Wednesday and said through a spokesperson that they value their customers and added the following: "It is regrettable that the Richmond City Council has made this decision, particularly as it is based on an erroneous allegation. We do not provide personal information to ICE. Instead, the data provided to ICE is through a contract with a third party. This contract provides access to Vigilant Solutions’ commercial data. Agency-collected data maintained by Vigilant Solutions belongs to the agency, and it is up to the agency to share with other agencies – including ICE, as permissible by state law and agency policy." 

ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said he didn't have a comment at this time.

Data brokers, or information resellers, collect, repackage and aggregate personal information about consumers and then resell that information to customers. In this case, the customers involved include Homeland Security Investigations and ICE.

The effort in Richmond was spearheaded by council members Jovanka Beckles and Ada Recinos. Mayor Tom Butt was the lone no vote.

“As a Black Latina immigrant, I have witnessed and experienced the challenges faced by our immigrant community. As a Richmond City Council Member, I am proud to introduce this ordinance to uphold our commitment to protect both undocumented community members and our city policies. We must prevent contractors from sharing information of immigrants to ICE," Beckles said.

Recinos is part of a 19-organization coalition called Deport Ice, which works to strengthen immigrant protections in the Bay Area's sanctuary cities.