The Department of Homeland Security is planning to look more closely at visa applicants’ social media footprints before letting them into the country.
This new push dovetails with amplified fears about extremist immigrants. The day that she and her husband killed 14 people in San Bernadino, Ca., Tashfeen Malik “pledged allegiance” to ISIS on Facebook. Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that DHS is working on a new strategy for scouring social media posts in the wake of that attack.
A DHS spokesperson confirmed to Gizmodo by email that the agency is “actively considering additional ways” to vet people through social media posts:
Over the last year, under Secretary Johnson’s leadership, the Department initiated three pilot programs to specifically incorporate appropriate social media review into its vetting of applicants for certain immigration benefits.
The Department is actively considering additional ways to incorporate the use of social media review in its various vetting programs.
The Department will continue to ensure that any use of social media in its vetting programs is consistent with current law and appropriately takes into account civil rights and civil liberties and privacy protections.
From its emphasis on watching out for civil liberties and privacy protections, it looks like the DHS could be bracing for questions about how exactly it will go digging. The vague language leaves us with a lot of questions. How does the department decide which applicants get this extra scrutiny? Will that scrutiny require cooperation from tech companies?
The DHS spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to Gizmodo’s questions about whether it will primarily pay more attention to public-facing postings, or whether it’ll also increase requests to companies like Facebook and Twitter additional information.