This widespread government collection of social media information — without individual warrants — is a measure of authoritarianism, and it may cause other countries to increase their unjust collection policies too. Once this data is collected, it could be used against vulnerable members of society to bring considerable harm to them. Other more privileged citizens are also at some risk, however, as their communications with immigrants through social media will also be collected.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expanding the kinds of information that it collects on immigrants to include social media information and search results. The new policy, which covers immigrants who have obtained a green card and even naturalized citizens, will take effect on October 18th.
First spotted by Buzzfeed News, the announcement from the Trump regime was published in the Federal Register. The new policy will not only allow DHS to collect information about an immigrant’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts, but it also mentions all “search results.” It’s not immediately clear if that means the agency will have access to things such as Google search histories nor is it clear how that would be obtained.
The new policy includes 12 points of expansion on what DHS is allowed to collect, but numbers 5 and 11 seem to be the most alarming in their ability to reach inside the digital lives of immigrants to the US and anyone who interacts with those immigrants.
(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;
The term “information sharing agreements” isn’t defined in the policy, but it could conceivably cover both the types of surveillance agreements that the US has with countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand under Five Eyes, as well as the agreements that DHS has with companies like Google and internet service providers.