Thomson Reuters commits to human rights assessment of ICE contracts following push by union investors
In his latest Notice to ShareholdersThomson Reuters announced that it will align itself with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and conduct an independent, company-wide human rights impact assessment of its products and services, including contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE ).
The announcement comes after years of criticism of Canadian media conglomerate data brokerage services for ICE, which uses a Thomson Reuters database service called Clear to track, arrest and deport undocumented migrants in the US. Currently, Thomson Reuters has more than $100 million in contracts with ICE, providing immigration not only with raw data from cell phone records, license plate recognition, and other publicly available information, but also with it internal analysts and custom systems to support the use of the data in ICE operations.
The announcement of the impact assessment was greeted with cautious optimism by groups like Mijente, a nonprofit Latinx grassroots organization that has led the #NoTechForICE Campaign.
“We will be closely monitoring the outcome of this assessment,” said Jacinta Gonzalez, senior campaign director at Mijente. “Our undocumented community members deserve the right to feel safe and should not have to fear that their data will be shared to harm them based on their immigration status.”
The newly announced impact assessment comes after years of shareholder activism by the British Columbia General Employees’ Union (BCGEU), a Canadian union that is a small shareholder in Thomson Reuters through its general investment fund. In 2020, 2021 and 2022, BCGEU filed shareholder motions highlighting privacy and human rights violations committed by ICE and proposing that Thomson Reuters adopt the UNGPs as a guiding framework for mitigating human rights risks.
In an appendix to the shareholder announcement, Thompson Reuters included the text of BCGEU’s most recently submitted proposal, noting that the proposal was voluntarily withdrawn by the AGM after the media outlet made commitments to the union.
“That’s why our union is concerned with managing capital as we do — to force companies to make progressive changes on the issues that matter to working people,” BCGEU President Stephanie Smith said in a statement. “Thomson Reuters would not have taken this action without the continued pressure from BCGEU over the past 3 years and the continued work of Mijente and the NoTechForIce campaign.”
This spurred BCGEU’s activism towards Thomson Reuters long-standing concern about the Clear databasecapable of consolidating data from public records in numerous external databases, e.g. B. Vehicle and arrest records, healthcare provider information, cell phone records and more.
In December 2021, the Clear Database once again came under the spotlight after a letter from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was released, revealing that numerous Utilities had shared data with ICE through a deal that allowed credit reporting agency Equifax to resell information about electricity, water, television and other utility payments.
This was announced by BCGEU’s capital markets advisor, Emma Pullman The edge that after initially resisting calls for a human rights assessment, Thomson Reuters was influenced by a growing awareness of the dangers of disclosure of data by third parties.
“I think [Thomson Reuters] recognized that investors are quite concerned about this and that the public is becoming very concerned about data brokers,” Pullman said. “In such a perfect storm, the company had to react.”
Although the upcoming impact assessment will not contain any binding decisions, the commitment to make the results of the assessment publicly known – which is expected for some time in the second half of 2022 – is taken as a sign of the media company’s willingness to engage in dialogue and change.
“We eagerly await the results of this summer’s impact assessment – and expect other data brokers to face similar pressure from responsible investors in the future,” Smith said. “That’s just the beginning.”
https://www.theverge.com/2022/4/29/23048819/thomson-reuters-human-rights-assessment-ice-bcgeu-mijente Thomson Reuters commits to human rights assessment of ICE contracts following push by union investors