Politics

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
dhs, jim banks, social media, visas



Freshman Representative Serves Up Immigration Bill That Would Make The DHS Do Things It Already Does

from the voted-'most-likely-to-kiss-ass' dept

In what looks to be the FNG currying favor with the new boss, rookie Congressman Jim Banks is introducing a bill that would turn the DHS's social media prying from something it would like to do to something it has to do.

Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) today will introduce the Visa Investigation and Social Media Act (VISA) of 2017, legislation to strengthen the vetting process for visa applicants. The bill is the first piece of legislation that Congressman Banks will introduce.

While CBP and DHS have been asking incoming foreigners for social media info for a while now, the process has been voluntary -- or at least as voluntary as any process can be when one side holds all the power. New DHS Secretary John Kelly suggested this would expand further in the near future, moving from requests for social media handles to demands for account passwords.

Rep. Banks appears to be making a move to codify the DHS's requests for social media info. It doesn't go so far as to demand account passwords, but it would make examination of foreigners' social media accounts part of the vetting process. The bill's text hasn't been posted yet, but here's what Rep. Banks' website says the legislation will include.

The VISA Act of 2017 would require the Department of Homeland Security to include the following in the background check of any individual applying for a visa to the United States:

A review of the applicant’s publicly available social media activity (i.e. public tweets, YouTube videos, Facebook photos and posts);

An interview of each applicant who is age eleven years or older;

A fraud-prevention check of each applicant’s documentation; and

A requirement that the applicant provide an English translation of his or her documentation.

Rep. Banks says this is no different than the process companies use to vet new hires. That's a truly bogus comparison. While some companies view applicants' social media posts when considering them for employment, very few are demanding social media account information as part of the application process. Those that do tend to drop the policies as soon as they're made public. (And child labor laws pretty much rule out interviews of tweens and teens.)

What's most troubling about this new rep's bill is its complete uselessness. The only real change it makes is dropping three years from the interview requirement (from 14 to 11). Everything else is something Customs already does. Vetting of social media posts has been part of the process for months. Banks' bill just makes it a requirement for the DHS to perform social media checks on all applicants. The legal ball will get pushed downhill, which will force applicants to hand over this info. ("In compliance with [insert US Code info here], DHS/CBP require applicants to provide social media account information, etc.") This may make it easier for the DHS to start demanding passwords, but the bill limits itself to public posts.

As for the rest of it, it's completely redundant. Extensive background checks are run on all applicants against several databases and Customs has required an English translation of visa applicants' documentation for years.

Banks likes corporate analogies so he should be aware his effort looks like a new hire trying to make his mark -- not by being a valuable addition to the company -- but by enthusiastically offering up worthless suggestions that signal your "Company Man" virtues to upper management.


Reader Comments

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  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 17 Feb 2017 @ 10:58am

    Is law easier to fight than regulation?

    If this were codified in law, would it be easier to have a court weigh in on the constitutionality/legality of these types of requests? I mean, regulation can get slippery (see Trumps Anti-Immigration Executive Order rewrite as an example). If this particular bill were to get passed and then the government sued for overreach would that be an easier solution than the ACLU wrangling with a bunch of different regulations at a bunch of different departments? I'd expect the opinion (regardless of the way it was decided) would be more broad than any opinion about a specific regulation would be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Feb 2017 @ 11:03am

    Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, oh look, it is a duck.

    Look at me...Look at me...I'm doing something! That it is pure grandstanding is irrelevant.

    Besides, DHS/CPB officers response will axiomatically be "What do you mean you don't have social media accounts? Ahahaha, tell me another 'cause your not getting in until you get one."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2017 @ 11:20am

    no shocker here

    There are already all sorts of stupid laws like this anyways. Just more work for no gain... and it only really works if people just enforce the laws to begin with which are already not being done in some cases.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Machin Shin (profile), 17 Feb 2017 @ 11:34am

    Things like this really make me wonder, what about those people who don't use social media? We are quickly headed in a crazy direction. Am I going to end up in jail someday because I refuse to hand over my non-existent facebook login?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2017 @ 12:06pm

      Re:

      As you should... if you have nothing to hide, why in the fuck don't you have a facebook login? Are you a nazi or something?

      think of the fucking kids you pervert!

      I am just waiting for the day government gets to install video cameras in every room of your house... we have to make sure you are not up to anything after all... everyone has a right to a SAFE SOCIETY!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2017 @ 6:46am

        Re: Re:

        And if you did not want the goverment to see what you were up to, you could turn of the video cameras by simply turning off the right switch on the breaker box or pulling the right fuse from the fuse box, and the government will never by the wiser. It will simply appear to be a malfunction.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 17 Feb 2017 @ 12:30pm

      Re:

      We're also heading in a direction where someone trying to be "funny" can get you turned back or detained at the border with a post to your Facebook page.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2017 @ 8:59am

        Re: Re:

        Not if use a "dummy" Facebook account when entering the United States, and conceal your real account. DHS/CBP will never be the wiser.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 20 Feb 2017 @ 5:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          What alarms me is that these authoritarian tinpot dictators haven't thought of this being a possibility. They'd only be able to turn away anyone too stupid to keep controversial opinions to themselves.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2017 @ 1:01pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Eithat that, or delete your posts you do not want DHS/CBP to see. Facebook and Twitter will let you delete posts.

            Also, I could see non-US social media companies becoming more popular. VKotakte (Russia), Dailymotion(France) and 220.ro (Romania) are not subject to American laws, so DHS/CBP cannot make those companies hand over any information to them, since the servers are not in America.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mockk, 17 Feb 2017 @ 11:45am

    Perhaps with just a minor addition...

    The VISA Act of 2017 would require the Department of Homeland Security to include the following in the background check of any individual applying for a visa to or running for elective office in the United States...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2017 @ 12:08pm

      Re: Perhaps with just a minor addition...

      Found the politician...

      trying to stick shit in where it does not belong!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2017 @ 12:54pm

      Re: Perhaps with just a minor addition...

      The Visa Act should only let the government check if the person has a visa card...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 17 Feb 2017 @ 1:51pm

    Makes you wonder

    What's a congress-critter from INDIANA doing making IMMIGRATION bills? I'd understand someone from New York, or California, or Texas, or a few other border states, but Indiana??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2017 @ 4:22pm

      Re: Makes you wonder

      Brown-nosing!

      Oh & the Congress critter hasn't bother defining what Social Media is, so apparently anything goes.

      Is Techdirt defined as Social Media or just another news site with BTL commentary allowed?

      Do letters to the editor count as social media, or calling in on talkback radio??

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2017 @ 6:43am

        Re: Re: Makes you wonder

        Well, Techdirt currently does not require someone to login with a username and password to comment, so someone who really wanted to hide the comments from DHS/CBP could simply post as "Anonymous Coward" and use a VPN to hide their real IP address.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Not That Chris (profile), 17 Feb 2017 @ 11:48pm

    Sorry

    As a resident of Indiana, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to America...again...

    We'll get this whole "electing competent representatives" and "providing qualified Vice Presidents" thing right at some point...

    I blame not being able to buy beer on Sunday.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2017 @ 6:24am

    And all you would have to do is use a "dummy" Facebook account to give to agents at the border. Just use your normal facebook or whatever with a alias, and hide yourself with a VPN, and there will never be the wiser.

    Also, one could scrub their hard disks with something like KillDisk, which is a good idea anyway.

    I like to take road trips all over North America. However, with the electronics I carry, including 3 cell phones, each with its own specific purpose, and two laptops, that is bound to make me more likely to be taken into secondary when crossing the border into either Caanada or the United States, so I killdisk my laptops and factory reset my phones, before crossing the border, not knowing what might either can be denied entry or land me in the local jail. So to be safe, I "sanitize" my laptops and cell phones before crossing the border into either the United States or Canada.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      GristleMissile (profile), 19 Feb 2017 @ 4:13pm

      Re:

      And then you'll get detained for having suspiciously clean gear. If you have nothing to hide, why are you trying to hide things, comrade?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2017 @ 11:45pm

        Re: Re:

        You can have stuff and not know it. People have been burned because of stuff they did not know they had. For my laptops, I have an disk image, which can quickly restore Windows, and all my programs, after the disk has been wiped.

        Malware and stuff like that can bring stuff onto your gear you did not know was there, so I killdisk my laptops and then quickly restore Windows and all my programs. And I always reinstall the apps on my phones ater wiping them, so it will not be as obvious that I wiped my phones.

        True, if I wiped my gear and then just reinstalled the OS without installing all my programs, it might raise some suspicion, but if I reinstall all of my programs, that fact that I killdisked the machines would not be detected.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2017 @ 6:31am

    As far as YouTube videos, someone could just delete them before handing their password over. The videos will de-indexed after they are deleted.

    I know this because I wanted to do my own monologues of road trips I take and post them to YouTube, but YouTube does not let you post videos over a certain length, unless you hand over your mobile phone number, which I did not like, so I deleted the YouTube videos I did have, and found they were in the index for about 24 hours or so. It took about 24 hours for the videos to be removed from the directory.

    So, if there are any YouTube videos you would not want CBP to see, just delete them at least 24 hours before attempting to enter the USA, to give YouTube's servers enough time to remove them from the index.

    Another good idea is to use Social Media whose servers are not based in the United States. 220.ro and Dailymotion are good example. Since they are not based in the United States, they are not subject to US laws, and the US government cannot make them hand over any of your details. Dailymtion(France) and 222.to (Romania) are not subject to American laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2017 @ 7:19am

    One thing I see about Facebook is that when you go into your account, one thing it does not show is comments you made to blog posts, that use Facebook as their commenting platform. I cannot find any of the comments I ever made to blog posts that use Facebook as their platform, so it looks like people will be safe from that, for now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2017 @ 7:37am

    What about YouTube accounts where you have never posted any videos? I don't post videos to YouTube because of their policy you hand over your mobile phone number.

    And another thing you might want to do if they want to see your viewing history is to clear your YouTube viewing history before entering the United States, so that if they demand your password, they will see see, in your account, what you have been watching. On the history page of your account, there is a button called Clear Watch History. That will prevent them from seeing what you are watching.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2017 @ 11:09am

    if i were subjunctively a freshman senator, i'd sponsor a bill requiring certain govt agency employees to breathe. then i'd take credit when it's shown that they are indeed breathing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Eric Goldman (profile), 19 Feb 2017 @ 1:21pm

    "While some companies view applicants' social media posts when considering them for employment, very few are demanding social media account information as part of the application process"

    Just to clarify, more than 2 dozen states have enacted laws banning employers from demanding that employees or prospective employees give them the login credentials to their social media. http://www.ncsl.org/research/telecommunications-and-information-technology/state-laws-prohibiting-ac cess-to-social-media-usernames-and-passwords.aspx There is also a proposed uniform law to that effect. http://www.uniformlaws.org/Act.aspx?title=Employee%20and%20Student%20Online%20Privacy%20Protection%2 0Act Eric.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 20 Feb 2017 @ 5:34am

      Re: "While some companies view applicants' social media posts when considering them for employment, very few are demanding social media account information as part of the application process"

      Thanks for that, Eric. Very useful. :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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