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Expanding E-Verify is a Privacy Disaster in the Making

DEEPLINKS BLOG
October 19, 2017

E-Verify is a massive federal data system used to verify the eligibility of job applicants to work in the United States. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) administer E-Verify. Until now, the federal government has not required private employers to use E-Verify, and only a few states have required it. However, a proposed bill in Congress, the Legal Workforce Act (HR 3711), aims to make E-Verify use mandatory nationwide despite all the very real privacy and accuracy issues associated with the data system.

EFF recently joined human rights and workers rights organizations from across the United States and sent a letter to Congress pointing out the flaws of E-Verify. 

Instead of learning from the recent Equifax data breach that access to sensitive information creates an attractive target for data thieves, our elected representatives want to compel a massive increase in the use of yet another data system that can be breached. To use E-Verify, employers need to collect and transmit sensitive information, such as our social security and passport numbers.

And a data breach isn’t the only concern with such a data system: there’s also the likelihood of data errors that can prevent many Americans from obtaining jobs. Even worse, E-Verify is likely to have an unfair disparate impact against women, as they are more likely to change their names due to marriage or divorce. Additionally, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report [.pdf page 19] found that despite being eligible, E-Verify leads to more denials for people not born in America, and can “create the appearance of discrimination.” The GAO report also stated that these errors would increase dramatically if E-Verify is made mandatory.

Instead of recognizing the problematic nature of E-Verify, the White House is pushing to make it mandatory in its negotiations with Congress concerning legislative protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. If successful, this would jeopardize Americans’ collective security and privacy. Not to mention that this expanded database may find uses beyond employment verification, and end up as another tool in an already impressive law enforcement surveillance arsenal.

As we have in the past, EFF will continue to do everything in our power to fight against the mandatory usage of E-Verify. It was a bad idea then and it’s a bad idea now.

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