Ethnic Media Coverage

Spying on Immigrants

What an immigrant or a naturalized citizen says on their social media account could end up in a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) file, available to anyone in the federal government who requests it.

DHS asserts that it isn’t new for the federal government to collect names, identification, aliases, associated identifying information and search results. DHS adds that what it is doing is nothing more than using current technology to do what it has already been doing.

Whatever it is, this is an intrusion on individual privacy. The collection and storage of this information is a dangerous weapon that can be misused by the government.

We must remember that the Trump administration sued Facebook to turn over the accounts of three users who are described by government lawyers as “anti-administration activists who have spoken at organized events and who generally are very critical of the policies of this administration.”

It is estimated that access to these accounts reveal the identities and personal information of thousands of people who have had any contact with them or with websites linked to those accounts.

If these three people were immigrants or naturalized citizens, the government wouldn’t need an order from a judge. Beginning Oct. 18, when the new policy goes into effect, DHS will have access to that information.

That should be a reason for all Americans to worry. The privacy of the U.S.-born citizen will not be safe if they have any contact with immigrants and naturalized citizens through social media.

DHS started monitoring social media in 2010 with the goal of helping in cases of natural disasters, finding out about what is happening through online information shared by the public. Little by little, the conversation became more about security, and less about natural disasters.

The 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino accelerated this process. The comments of one of the attackers, visible only to a small group of friends, created the impression that the attack could have been avoided. This possibility was later rejected. As of today, there has not been a single case of terrorism that could have been prevented through social media.

What’s more, a report by the DHS Inspector General in February 2017 indicated that the programs that the new system is based on don’t help the agency to “make informed decisions when they are designed for social media.”

This is a legal form of spying on social media that will be used by a government that has a history of wanting to persecute its opponents. All under the guise of national security, even though it’s known that technology isn’t used for that purpose. This is a dangerous abuse of power.
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