“We see this as part of a larger process of high-tech surveillance of immigrants and more and more people being subjected to social media screening,” Schwartz told BuzzFeed News. “There’s a growing trend at the Department of Homeland Security to be snooping on the social media of immigrants and foreigners and we think it’s an invasion of privacy and deters freedom of speech.” (Adam Schwartz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation)
This would also affect all US citizens who communicate with immigrants, Schwartz said, who could self-censor out of fear that information they exchange with someone overseas could be misconstrued and used against them.
Action you can take: Click here to link to the Federal Register to register a comment before the Oct. 18th deadline.
WASHINGTON — The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expanding the kinds of information that it collects on all immigrants to include social media information, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts as well as “search results”. It’s not immediately clear if that means the agency will have access to things such as Google search histories nor is it clear how that would be obtained.
The new policy includes 12 points of expansion on what DHS is allowed to collect, but numbers 5 and 11 seem to be the most alarming in their ability to reach inside the digital lives of immigrants to the US and anyone who interacts with those immigrants.
The Department of Homeland Security, therefore, is updating the “Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection-001 Alien File, Index, and National File Tracking System of Records notice to:
(5) expand the categories of records to include the following: country of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS Online Account Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results; and the Department of Justice (DOJ), Executive Office for Immigration Review and Board of Immigration Appeals proceedings information
(11) 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;
The term “information sharing agreements” isn’t defined in the policy, but it could conceivably cover both the types of surveillance agreements that the US has with countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand under Five Eyes, as well as the agreements that DHS has with companies like Google and internet service providers.
The new policy, which covers immigrants who have obtained a green card and even naturalized citizens, will take effect on October 18th.