Government Begins Tracking Immigrants’ Social Media Use

In September, the Department of Homeland Security released a policy update that would allow the government to monitor the social media accounts of immigrants to the United States. The new rule went in to effect on October 18th 2017.

The new rule states that an immigrants official record will contain,  “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information and search results.” The rule applied to those who are seeking to enter the country, green card holders and naturalized citizens of the United States.

Privacy experts have taken issue with the new rule, telling KXAN-TV in Texas they are concerned with an overreach by the federal government.

“I’m concerned overall about this privacy invasion,” Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, an Austin based immigration attorney told KXAN. “I think it’s very concerning. I myself have many friends on social media sites who are immigrants or who have been immigrants. Does that mean I’m going to be monitored now?”

Meanwhile, according to the news report, DHS said in a statement the practice of monitoring social media accounts is nothing new.

“DHS, in its law-enforcement and immigration process capacity, has and continues to monitor publicly-available social media to protect the homeland,” Joanne Talbot with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Public Affairs told the tv station.

“In an effort to be transparent, to comply with existing regulations and due to updates in the electronic immigration system, DHS decided to update its corresponding Privacy Act system of records. DHS published this notice… with the administrative requirements of the Privacy Act to help address these requirements, not launch a new policy initiative.”

A separate article on Engadet said requests for clarity from DHS went unanswered from the department.

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