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Free Expression, Government Surveillance, Privacy & Data

DHS Rule Allowing Collection of Immigrant Social Media Information is an Affront to Human Dignity

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) is disappointed with the recently published Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule that will expand the information DHS says it collects on immigrants to include social media handles and aliases, search results, and “associated identifiable information.” The rule, which takes effect on Oct. 18, 2017, will apply to lawful permanent residents, naturalized U.S. citizens, their relatives and associates, and many who assist in immigration proceedings. CDT has advocated against similar proposals in the past on the grounds of defending free speech, privacy, and the fundamental human rights of vulnerable populations.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s practice is an affront to basic human dignity. Individuals and families who immigrate to the United States should not be subject to these overbroad and overly invasive rules,” said CDT President & CEO Nuala O’Connor. O’Connor is an immigrant herself and previously served as the Chief Privacy Officer for DHS.

“This rule will have an extreme chilling effect on online speech. It effectively makes it impossible for immigrants to have pseudonymous internet identities, or to speak online without fear of government retribution,” O’Connor continued.

The rule also enables DHS to append data obtained from commercial data providers to the data it collects, which raises concerns about data accuracy and accountability.

“Beyond the clear violations of fundamental rights, this mass collection of data is counterproductive. More information does not mean better nor more actionable information; it often just means more noise,” O’Connor added.