Federal Gov't Gives Customs Officers Permission To Break Social Media Platform Rules Forbidding Fake Accounts

from the all-in-service-of-the-greater-good dept

The scanning of visa and green card applicants' social media accounts during the application process continues to escalate. Even though the program hasn't shown itself to be effective in keeping the country free of terrorists or criminals, the DHS and its components continue to believe this is an essential part of our national security infrastructure.

If the ultimate goal is to create a worldwide chilling effect on speech, then this program is coming along nicely. Knowing immigration and customs officers are going to be taking a deep dive into your social media accounts results in a lot of self-censorship, since it's not entirely clear what screeners are looking for. Presumably, this has been left to officers' discretion, which means it's a "we'll know it when we see it" situation.

Performing a deep dive means having access to as much of an account as possible. Limits placed on site visitors without an account appears to be frustrating customs officers. So, they've officially been given permission to create fake accounts to better access the content they're screening.

U.S. 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 U.S.

The federal government may say it's okay for personnel to do this. But it's not okay with the platforms they'll be using. Twitter immediately offered a statement pointing out the creation of fake accounts (and the use of Twitter data for "persistent surveillance") violates its terms of use.

Facebook -- which has already pointed this out to local law enforcement agencies -- said the same thing in the statement it released the day after the USCIS gave customs officers the fake account green light.

“Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear,” Facebook spokeswoman Sarah Pollack told The Associated Press in a statement Tuesday. “Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we will act on any violating accounts.”

I guess maintaining law and order means breaking the rules. I imagine the DHS and its components will proceed with their fake account creation despite these statements because without an account, passive surveillance of foreigners will be much more limited.

For whatever it's worth, the USCIS has placed some limits on the use of fake social media accounts. They can only be used to passively view targeted accounts and aren't allowed to "follow" or "friend" any targeted accounts. Officers must also undergo annual training, although what that entails hasn't been described in detail.

Foreigners planning to visit the United States are at the mercy of an ultra-vague policy that encourages federal officers to violate the policies of privately-owned social media platforms. No doubt this will turn out well for everyone involved and not result in a ton of abuse.

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Filed Under: dhs, fake accounts, social media, surveillance

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2019 @ 10:06am

    Re: You think corporations are above government?

    Corporations, kids, are mechanisms that The Public ALLOWS to serve OUR purposes. They are NOT persons with ANY degree of "rights".

    The Supreme Court disagrees with you, e.g. the Citizen United decision.

    taking a deep dive into your social media accounts

    NO, not into mine, but those of FOREIGNERS who are ASKING to be let into MY country, as you set up in prior paragraph

    And the USCIS has such an impeccable record of only focusing on foreign applicants attempting to enter the country, as opposed to US citizens attempting to return from foreign travels.

    APPLICANTS. The US does not have to allow them. Only on our terms.

    I'm sure there were some Native Americans who felt the same when the Pilgrims landed. This country has always been a country of immigrants.

    Nor does the government have to abide by TOS.

    Nor does a private company have to allow the government on it's site, or be forced to allow violations of it's TOS at the government's order unless there is a law or court order directing them to do so.

    They don't need no stinking new law, either. It's an inherent power of gov't.

    Damn pesky 10th Amendment begs to differ.

    If those corporations make a fuss, then executives should be arrested and jailed until change their mind. Period.

    Better find a valid law to charge these executives under., otherwise those damn pesky 4th and 5th Amendments will get in the way. Guess the government does need a law to do this doesn't it?

    This is not only all right with me, most people, and thousands of public servants defending my country, but exactly what's needed.

    Your view of "Me, myself and I" doesn't represnt "most people".

    You foreigners / idiots who think otherwise can lump it. I invite you to go to ANY other country and try to find one that just waves you in, you IDIOT. You can STAY there, too, enjoying socialism and gun-free zones.

    Your family was foreigners here at one time too. Only an idiot would forget that fact.

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