As the furor over family separations and inhumane treatment committed by ICE continues unabated, protesters are taking action into their own hands against ICE — in person and online. Yesterday, artist and academic Sam Lavigne scraped and released a database of the names of 1,595 people who list ICE as their employer on LinkedIn. “While I don’t have a precise idea of what should be done with this data set,” he wrote on Medium, “I leave it here with the hope that researchers, journalists and activists will find it useful.”
The full data dump, “including profile photos, previous employment info, schools, and more,” was uploaded to GitHub, the widely used development tool recently purchased by Microsoft for $7.5 billion. For a brief window of time yesterday, the Twitter account @iceHRgov, satirically couched as an account celebrating the hardworking employees of ICE, tweeted out names, photos, and other personal details from the data set.
@iceHRgov was suspended within minutes, while Lavigne’s post on Medium explaining the effort and the GitHub repository also vanished. Archives of the Medium post and GitHub repo are still live on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
To the untrained eye, Lavigne’s data set looked like textbook doxing — releasing someone’s private personal information, often in an effort to incite pressure or harassment. Many major web platforms have strict policies against such a practice, and the one’s featured here cited doxing concerns. While the term is not set in stone, most “doxing” consist of information that is not publicly accessible or, at the very least, relatively difficult to obtain. Lavigne’s list was compiled from scraping LinkedIn, a public directory for which the main purpose is to allow users to promote their professional accomplishments and the work they do for employers.
This was not combing through arcane governmental employment records or whatever: If one were to, I dunno, Google a string of text like site:linkedin.com/in “u.s. immigration and customs enforcement (ICE)” one could, hypothetically, find the same exact types of data that Lavigne presented. A better criticism might be that this list is only accurate to the extent that LinkedIn’s data is, and surely contains at least a few people who don’t currently work for ICE, or who work for it in capacities that don’t render them culpable for the agency’s misdeeds. At its broadest, this is a list of people under whose feet the public attitude toward ICE has changed: from something you’d brag about on your LinkedIn, to something that makes you despised by people you’ve never met.
Meanwhile, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey just wants to know what he can do to help.