US Homeland Security Will Collect Social Media and Search Result Information as Part of Extreme Immigrant Vetting
The Trump administration is coming hard on immigrants. From deportations to blanket bans, from extreme security checks to extreme vetting procedures, things are getting harder. In a recent decision, the Trump administration announced a new policy that will allow the US Department of Homeland Security to collect social media and search results of green card holders and even naturalized citizens. This policy will go into effect on October 18th.
The new policy will allow the DHS to collect information from a user’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts and will also recover user search results. This could essentially mean that your search history and your social media activities will be thoroughly vetted and you won’t be able to refuse if you want entrance into the country.
It should be noted that the US already has an extensive and perhaps most rigid immigrant vetting procedures in the world, but now with the vetting of digital profiles, the system has become harsher. Politicians and security analysts believe that viewing digital profiles of individuals can help them identify extremists and terrorists who are using social media to recruit and spread anti-state propaganda. Investigations into terrorist incidents in different parts of the country in the past few years show the perpetrators sharing and posting violent quotes and ideas that were clearly against Western interests.
A part of the policy highlighting the main clauses of digital vetting states:
(5) expand the categories of records to include the following: country of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS Online Account Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results; and the Department of Justice (DOJ), Executive Office for Immigration Review and Board of Immigration Appeals proceedings information
(11) update record source categories to include publicly available information obtained from the internet, public records, public institutions, interviewees, commercial data providers, and information obtained and disclosed pursuant to information sharing agreements;
Clause 11 would mean that the DHS would be requiring user data from companies like Google and internet service providers. The US has a partnership with countries like the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand which would automatically allow for the sharing of information under the umbrella of surveillance and security.
It should also be known that the vetting would not only be limited to the immigrants themselves but also to the people they interact with. All their conversations on social media would be subject to surveillance which would mean conversations between spouses, family members of immigrants and other sources would be analyzed.
While all this may seem fine on print, there is no way to know how the DHS will carry out this process and the time it may take for each immigrant considering that thousands of people apply for the US each year. It also doesn’t detail the boundaries where such folks will be accepted or rejected and what constitutes a threat to the state. It still remains a murky area, but if you’re preparing to go to the United States, make sure your social media is clean, does not have anti-state elements and your search results… well, take care of that.