US Homeland Security to monitor all immigrants' social media
Earnest September 27, 2017
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—From October, the
US Department of Homeland Security will be able to monitor the social
media activity and search histories of all immigrants - including
permanent residents and naturalized citizens - and anyone they interact
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced
it is expanding the kinds of information it collects on immigrants
to include social media activity and search histories. The new policy
will take effect October 18.
The new announcement explicitly speaks of tracking immigrants'
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts — although specific search
engines aren't mentioned (the phrase "search results" is used three
times), leaving it unclear which search engines the DHS will target, and
how it intends to obtain the results.
In all, the new policy expands DHS powers of collection in 12 areas,
but the sections dealing with the digital surge are likely to be the
most alarming for privacy campaigners, given it grants the DHS blanket
license to delve into the digital lives of immigrants in the US — and
anyone who interacts with them.
"[The DHS is] expanding the categories of records to include; country
of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS Online Account
Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable
information, and search results; and Department of Justice (DOJ),
Executive Office for Immigration Review and Board of Immigration Appeals
proceedings information," the policy stated.
Moreover, the DHS will update record source categories
to include publicly available information obtained from the internet,
public records, public institutions, interviewees, commercial data
providers, and information obtained and disclosed "pursuant
to information sharing agreements."
Collecting this kind of information would by definition have a
significant impact on any individual that interacts with immigrants
to the US, making all their conversations on social media subject
to official surveillance.
Moreover, the sweeping powers seem disproportionate given that the
monitoring of social media for national security purposes was seriously
questioned by a February Office of Inspector General report, which found that DHS pilot programs that used social media to screen applicants for immigration benefits were ineffective.
However, the report acknowledged that monitoring social media was
effective at determining individuals' ideological persuasion — opening
up the prospect of would-be immigrants being "ideologically vetted" and
applicants being accepted or turned down partially or wholly based
on their political views.
The announcement comes mere days after it was revealed that the UK government was continuing its "hostile environment" policy
toward undocumented migrants, including those from the European Union,
by conducting regular checks on all current accounts to identify any
individuals residing in the country illegally.
In response to the news, a spokesperson for the Joint Council for the
Welfare of Immigrants called the move "quite scary," and said it
amounted to "government intrusion into private affairs on a massive