United States to use fake social media to check people entering country

Vastavam web: US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers can now create fictitious social media accounts to monitor social media information on foreigners seeking visas, green cards and citizenship.

An updated Homeland Security Department review of potential privacy issues dated July 2019 that was posted online on Friday essentially reversed a prior ban on officers creating fake profiles.

A USCIS statement explaining the change says fake accounts and identities will make it easier for investigators to search for potential evidence of fraud or security concerns as they decide whether to allow someone entry into the US.

The change in policy was preceded by other steps taken by the State Department, which began requiring applicants for US visas to submit their social media usernames this past June, a vast expansion of the Trump administration’s enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors.

It’s unclear exactly how the creation of fake social media accounts would work given policies of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which both specifically state that impersonation — pretending to be someone other than yourself — violates their terms of use. Twitter and Facebook recently shut down numerous accounts believed to be operated by the Chinese government using their platforms under false identities for information operations.

“It is against our policies to use fake personae and to use Twitter data for persistent surveillance of individuals. We look forward to understanding USCIS’s proposed practices to determine whether they are consistent with our terms of service,” according to a Twitter statement. Facebook did not immediately provide comment.

Such a review of social media would be conducted by officers in the agency’s Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate on cases flagged as requiring more investigation. The privacy assessment notes that officers can only review publicly available social media available to all users on the platform — they cannot “friend” or “follow” an individual — and must undergo annual training. The officers are also not allowed to interact with users on the social media sites and can only passively review information, according to the DHS document.