It has now been nearly two years since Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik perpetrated a mass shooting and a thankfully botched bombing attempt at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. Only after the fact did we learn that Tashfeen Malik had been sending Facebook messages to her friends back home, pledging her loyalty to the terrorists and expressing her hopes that she might one day join the fight. One can only imagine how different the world would look if we’d had that information in our pockets when Malik was welcomed into our country.
Now, after all this time has passed, the Department of Homeland Security has finally announced that those attempting to enter the country will have their social media information checked out for potential problems. Better late than never I suppose. Gizmodo picked up the story, though I will note in advance that the article’s author, Matt Novak, finds all sorts of reasons to somehow see this as a bad thing.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expanding the kinds of information that it collects on immigrants to include social media information and search results. The new policy, which covers immigrants who have obtained a green card and even naturalized citizens, will take effect on October 18th.
First spotted by Buzzfeed News, the announcement from the Trump regime was published in the Federal Register. The new policy will not only allow DHS to collect information about an immigrant’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts, but it also mentions all “search results.” It’s not immediately clear if that means the agency will have access to things such as Google search histories nor is it clear how that would be obtained.
The new policy includes 12 points of expansion on what DHS is allowed to collect, but numbers 5 and 11 seem to be the most alarming in their ability to reach inside the digital lives of immigrants to the US and anyone who interacts with those immigrants.
So what will DHS be looking at? Postings on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all the rest to be sure. But the author is clearly upset over the idea of DHS looking at “search results.” There are apparently questions as to whether or not authorities will just be delving into what they can Google on the applicant or if they will actually be able to retrieve their search histories.
My immediate answer to that question is… who cares? We’re not talking about citizens here. We’re discussing people who would like to enter the country, potentially becoming citizens later. And if you would like us to welcome you as a guest, particularly in these perilous times, we should have started looking at your tweets, Facebook messaging entries and everything you’ve been doing searches for long before now.
Do you recall when we recently looked at the fact that Amazon search results can reveal people who have been buying (or at least shopping for) all the components for bombs? If you would like to be issued a green card, I’d darn well like to know if you were doing that sort of shopping in advance.
Novak does raise one interesting question which ties into other investigations currently going on in Washington. If DHS is scouring all of the applicants social media interactions, that may well include tweets, direct messages or Facebook messages to and from American citizens. How will that be handled? Would the identity of the American citizen be “masked” until such time as somebody like Susan Power asked for it to be revealed or is it all in the record? That’s a legitimate privacy concern, particularly if the applicant’s record comes up clean. Of course, it seems to me that a FISA court could be employed in those cases just as with surveillance.
Either way, the program is scheduled to start next month. Long overdue if you ask me, but the sooner it’s in place the better.