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Somebody’s Watching Me: DHS to Collect Social Media Data from Immigrants


Somebody’s Watching Me: DHS to Collect Social Media Data from Immigrants

On September 18, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published an announcement in the Federal Register that it would begin collecting the social media data of immigrants in an effort to “more effectively screen those coming to the country.” This new system went into effect on October 18, 2017, bringing with it concerns about privacy, data sharing, and the chilling effect it could have on free speech.

Under the new system, the information that DHS collects as part of an immigrant’s “A-file” will be expanded to include “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.” This system will apply to all persons seeking to enter the United States, as well as green card holders and naturalized citizens, and the data will come from “publicly available information obtained from the internet, public records, public institutions, interviewees, commercial data providers.”

Furthermore, although the Federal Register notice does not change how DHS collects information or the fact that data collection has been used by immigration officials in the past, for instance as part of the screening process for certain refugees, this new system encompasses even those already in the United States. Finally, while DHS says that it does not have plans to begin collecting the social media data of American-born citizens, it is entirely possible that the immigrant data collected by DHS could include communications between American-born citizens and immigrants.

If you have questions about your immigration options or have specific concerns about how your social media activity could impact your immigration status, and you are not already represented by Joseph & Hall P.C. in your immigration matters, please contact our office at (303) 297-9171 or click here to schedule a consultation so we can review your case and your options. If you are already a client of Joseph & Hall P.C. and have questions about your case, please contact your attorney to discuss your particular case.

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