Dep’t of Homeland Security to monitor immigrants’ social media history
SAN FRANCISCO — The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to build a database of immigrants’ social media activities.
The DHS quietly introduced a new regulation last week that would allow it to collect data from all immigrants’ social media history, including posts from their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. It would affect green card holders and naturalized citizens. The new provision, introduced to the Federal Register on September 18, was first spotted by Buzzfeed News.
The rules surrounding privacy can blur at US borders, especially if immigrants are involved. Digital privacy at the borders has increasingly become an issue for immigrants trying to enter the US. Border patrol agents said in July that they wouldn’t search through a person’s cloud data.
On September 13, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the DHS after 11 travelers had their laptops and phones searched without warrants at US borders. It’s been reported that border agents have also been checking people’s Facebook profiles. The State Department in May said it wanted to search through five years of social media history to grant US visas.
While some people view their social media profiles as a haven for friends and family, government officials see it as a cache of data they can use to decide if a person is a national threat. That’s raising privacy concerns.
The new regulation would amass a database of all immigrants, including green card holders and naturalized citizens, and contain details like handles, aliases and search results on social media. The DHS could also collect data on anybody that communicates with an immigrant, according to BuzzFeed.
The DHS didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Despite all the demand for social media information, it’s unclear how effective it actually is.