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Mass Surveillance Program Lawsuit Moves Forward

March 25, 2024 (2 min read)

Just Futures Law, Mar. 22, 2024 email:

"Yesterday, in an important victory for the immigrant community, a federal court greenlighted a lawsuit brought by Just Futures Law and Edelson PC against Western Union for its alleged involvement in a dragnet surveillance program called Transaction Record Analysis Center (TRAC). Through TRAC, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and money transfer companies like Western Union have secretly collected and shared intimate details of millions of financial transactions for nearly a decade. This mass surveillance program targets immigrants and communities of color and violates the financial privacy rights of hundreds of thousands of people. 

  • In March 2022, Sen. Wyden’s office first revealed that ICE had issued unlawful customs summonses to gain access to a massive trove of personal financial data from money transfer companies. Until press reports exposed the program, consumers had no idea that money transfer companies were indiscriminately sharing their private financial information with the federal government and law enforcement.

  • Public records that we obtained revealed Western Union, like other money transfer companies, disclosed customer data en masse to the Transaction Record Analysis Center (“TRAC”) in response to ICE summons and requests from the Arizona Attorney General. 

  • The Arizona Attorney General’s Office, ICE, and other law enforcement agencies created TRAC to maintain records of money transfers of $500 or more sent or received in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, as well as Mexico. Many immigrants use these services to send remittances to family and friends abroad. The scheme helped facilitate the creation of a mass database that federal government agencies and hundreds of law enforcement agencies can access without a warrant or judicial oversight. The federally-funded TRAC gathers, stores, and shares private financial records in its database even when there is no link to any particularized suspicion of criminal activity. It includes over 145 million sensitive financial records. 

  • Law enforcement agencies claim that TRAC is intended to address money laundering, but we do not know how ICE is using the database and whether it is using it for immigration enforcement purposes.

  • The Arizona Attorney General continues to request these sensitive records for its TRAC database, despite knowing the legal concerns this litigation has raised.

What the decision does:
  • The judge’s order marks the first known instance a court has weighed in on the lawfulness of the TRAC program. 
  • In its decision, a federal judge determined that the plaintiffs alleged plausible violations of California laws protecting the privacy of sensitive financial records. 
  • Although the Court dismissed claims brought against the companies and federal government under the federal Right to Financial Privacy Act, it held that money transfer companies could be covered by the law if they also offer lending services and maintain customer accounts. 
  • The named plaintiffs seek to represent thousands of affected California consumers, and asked the court to halt the sharing of consumer financial information with the federal government, as well as requesting reimbursement of service fees for California consumers whose personal financial information was improperly shared.
To learn more about the case, look to our case page here: 
Please help us amplify by sharing the news through your networks and social media to create more awareness about these concerning practices.
Please share this one pager in Spanish and English for concerned consumers and community members who use these money transfer services."