US Homeland Security will now collect social media data from immigrants

27 Sep 2017

Homeland Security will soon have access to immigrants’ social media information. Image: Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock

The Trump regime’s new data collection plan will allow social media accounts of immigrants to be searched by authorities.

A document filed by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), spotted first by BuzzFeed News on 26 September, revealed that it is planning to allow federal officials to collect social media data from immigrants, including naturalised citizens and permanent US residents.

According to the DHS notice posted on the US Federal Register, data under the remit of the expanded policy includes posts from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. It states that “social media handles and aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” can now be requested by federal authorities.

Department of Homeland Security extends its data boundaries

Collecting information such as this will impact all individuals who interact with immigrants in the US, whether they are friends, colleagues or family. For example, if you are married to someone who holds a green card, ostensibly, these regulations will be applicable to you.

This social media surveillance trend was born out of the belief that state surveillance from the US will help the country stop an attack in future.

Many people have concerns about the increase in government surveillance that this new notice will bring in when it is enacted on 18 October, with some concerned about the ideological aspect of the DHS using this data to monitor users with views that oppose those of the Trump administration.

An ideological purity test?

Currently, there is no strong evidential basis that extensive social media monitoring affects immigrants’ chances of receiving benefits.

BuzzFeed wrote that during three pilot refugee social media screening programmes, even when immigration applicants were found to pose a national security threat, their social media information was of no help in establishing such a threat.

Faiz Shakir of the ACLU said: “This privacy act notice makes clear that the government intends to retain the social media information of people who have immigrated to this country, singling out a huge group of people to maintain files on what they say.

“This would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the free speech that’s expressed every day on social media.”

Homeland Security will soon have access to immigrants’ social media information. Image: Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects