Earlier this week, Gizmodo reported that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will keep track of the social media accounts of immigrants to the US. Immigrants would include green card holders and naturalized citizens. The Federal Register announced the action last week and though it may sound alarming, a response from the DHS reveals that they’ve been tracking social media since 2012.
The DHS said the tracking was necessary under the Privacy Act and “The notice simply reiterated existing DHS policy regarding the use of social media.” The DHS continued, “In particular, USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) follows DHS Directive 110-01 for the Operational Use of Social Media. This policy is available on DHS’s public website and was signed on 6/8/2012.”
The DHS said only a small group of USCIS officers are trained to “access publicly available social media as an aid in determining whether an individual is eligible for an immigration benefit.” They further explained, “The notice does not authorize USCIS to search the Internet history of these individuals. Furthermore, the notice does not authorize USCIS to search the social media accounts of naturalized citizens; rather, it simply restates USCIS’ authority to search publicly available social media information of individuals applying for naturalization and informs the public that this publicly available information will be stored in the applicant’s alien file.”
The DHS’ statement conflicted with the policy published in the Federal Register, according to Gizmodo. That policy said the tracking policy would apply to new immigrants, existing Green Card holders, and naturalized citizens. However, if we are to believe the DHS, naturalized citizens who went through the process before 2012 won’t have their social media actively monitored by USCIS.
Such a rubric for surveillance might not help folks sleep at night considering an anti-immigration president leading our country. We’ll keep you updated if anything should change.