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Detroit suspends ID program over concerns of data leaks

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Detroit has paused a municipal ID card program that the city had said was open to people of all ages, gender expressions, and immigration statuses.

The IDs allowed residents to open bank accounts, enroll their children in schools, and access city services.

The city suspended the program just months after it restarted, over concerns among advocates and some cardholders that the program’s vendor, MoCaFi, could have leaked data of more than 800 residents who applied for an ID.

Advocates have said that MoCaFi exposed personal information about applicants for the IDs to clearinghouses that are accessible by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly known as ICE.

They said this puts immigrants — people to whom the cards were recommended because they can be issued regardless of legal status — at risk for targeted enforcement.

City officials said they have received no complaints from cardholders or seen any examples of misuse of data. Still, they’ve ended their contract with MoCaFi.

"The concerns raised by some are false and have no legitimate relation to the Detroit ID program," said Detroit Corporation Counsel Conrad Mallett. "Because this false information was being spread throughout the immigrant community, on Friday, we agreed with MoCaFi, shut down the Detroit ID program to stop the spread of misinformation."

Detroit's municipal ID program began in December 2016. It was put on hold during the pandemic but began anew in May with new vendor MoCaFi. During the press conference, advocates said the vendor used anunnecessary process for verifying identity.

"This is in response to the harm that has already been caused — and quite frankly this would never have happened if we would have been listened to in the beginning when we rang the alarm saying MoCaFi could potentially share data with ICE," Detroit city council member Gabriela Santiago-Romero said.

MoCaFi denied the claims from advocates.

"MoCaFi has not sold and does not sell personal information to third parties, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other government agencies," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "MoCaFi does not share personal information with law enforcement agencies unless required to do so by law," the statement continued.

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.
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