The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will start collecting social media information from immigrants in the US from next month, including naturalized citizens and those with current green cards, according to reports from BuzzFeed News. The new regulation, which expands what the DHS can put in an individual’s immigration file, was quietly published by the agency last week in the Federal Register.
From 18 October, the DHS will be able to collect aliases and search results, as well as social media handles, and associated identifiable information on every immigrant in the US. The agency also plans to source from information that is publically available on the internet, plus public records, interviews, information gained in data-sharing agreements, public institutions, and commercial data providers.
BuzzFeed suggests this method of surveillance also has the potential for sweeping up information on any other individual who is in communication with an immigrant. The idea of collecting social media data on visitors to the US was suggested by the DHS in February, and in April it was announced that tourists may have to provide their social media passwords and phones.
In June, the Trump administration unveiled a new US visa survey, which required certain applicants to supply every email address and social media handle they have used during the previous five years. Adam Schwartz, a free speech, and privacy attorney calls it a ‘growing trend’ that deters freedom of speech and is an invasion of privacy.