A state senator says he is “deeply troubled” by a state agency’s decision to hire a Google subsidiary to “spy” on Iowans who are getting unemployment benefits. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, says the agency is using a half a million dollar federal grant to pay for the company’s services.
“Iowa Workforce Development, instead of hiring individuals to go after $15 million worth of fraudulent payments, has contracted with a Google subsidiary — it’s called Pondera Technology Platforms — to spy on unemployed workers who are receiving unemployment benefits,” Dotzler says.
The agency says the company will sort through data to see if someone receiving jobless benefits has committed identity theft by, for example, using someone else’s Social Security number. Dotzler argues the on-line tracking may go too far and legislators should have been involved in making this kind of a decision.
“Should state government move down that path?” Dotzler asks. “Is that the kind of government that we are heading towards, where we are spying on the citizens of our country to find out about their personal lives and what they’re doing, all under the guise of trying to keep somebody from committing fraud?”
The director of the Iowa Workforce Development agency is quoted in a Pondera news release, saying Pondera provides her agency with a new “tool set to detect and prevent fraud.” She said there’s been a “lack of investment” in the agency’s “technical capabilities” over the past decade and Pondera can help prevent errors and save taxpayer dollars.