Friday, September 29, 2017

DHS plans to monitor social media activity of immigrants

LOST AMIDST the cyclone of issues swirling around the White House and its current occupant, mainstream media hasn't had time to focus on a policy that allows the government to monitor the social media accounts and internet search history of legal immigrants.

The Department of Homeland Security intends to launch this highly questionable and threat to privacy in October 18, the same day that the latest iteration of President Donald Trump’s travel ban is set begin.

This policy would mean the government will be able to delve into an immigrant's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts in hopes finding somewhere among the selfies and food porn a smidgen of anti-government sentiment such as "Trump (fill in the blank)."

"This chills and deters the free speech and association not just of these immigrants and visitors, but also of all the U.S. citizens who communicate with them," said Adam Schwartz in a statement from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for free speech  rights online.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the new rule in the Federal Register last week, saying it wants to include "social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results" as part of people's immigration file, according to Buzzfeed which first broke the story.

"DHS published this notice in the Federal Register on Sept. 18 to comply with the administrative requirements of the Privacy Act to help address these requirements, not launch a new policy initiative," the agency said. "DHS, in its law-enforcement and immigration-process capacity, has and continues to monitor publicly-available social media to protect the homeland."

The policy applies to not just immigration applicants, but also to naturalized U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

In a statement issued Thursday (Sept. 28), the ACLU said that the new rule “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. This collect-it-all approach is ineffective to protect national security and is one more example of the Trump administration's anti-immigrant agenda."” said Faiz Shakir, ACLU national political director.

The new policy will require immigrants during the vetting process for visas to disclose their social media accounts of the last five years . The agency will now collect inforation including “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” on immigrants, including permanent residents and naturalized citizens.

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