Published: August 2016

Social media surveillance proposal would prove ineffective and violates privacy rights

The Department of Homeland Security's proposed policy to collect information on the social media profiles of foreign travelers violates the rights of travelers and their American friends, colleagues and family members. Coalition advocates wrote to the Department of Homeland Security opposing the Customs and Border Protection policy and argued that the rule change would do little to enhance national security and would open the door to greater spying on Americans.

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed it would be reviewing its policies on when officials can examine prospective immigrants’ social media posts as part of the vetting process when applying for certain visas. In June, the DHS proposed extending the plan to cover all non-US citizens coming into the country who don't have a visa. Visitors will be asked: "Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier," on the travel forms they must fill out to enter the country. While filling in the section isn’t mandatory, leaving it blank will undoubtedly raise suspicions.

DHS’s proposed language is vague and open ended and applicants would have little or no opportunity to explain information associated with their online profiles or challenge inappropriate waiver denials. Cultural and linguistic barriers would increase the risk of discrimination against Arabs and Muslims seeking to enter the U.S. The collection of online social media identifiers is an intelligence surveillance program clothed as a customs administration mechanism and we urge DHS to drop the proposal. 

Lead Organization

Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)

Other Organizations

Access Now | Advocacy for Principled Action in Government | American Civil Liberties Union | American Immigration Lawyers Association | American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee | Americans for Immigrant Justice | Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC | Bill of Rights Defense | Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation | Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles | Center for Democracy & Technology | Committee to Protect Journalists | The Constitution Project | Consumer Action | Consumer Federation of America | Council on American-Islamic Relations | Demand Progress | Electronic Frontier Foundation | Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights | Immigrant Legal Resource Center | National Coalition Against Censorship | National Immigrant Justice Center | National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild | New America’s Open Technology Institute | Online Policy Group | Paradigm Initiative Nigeria | Restore The Fourth | TechFreedom | Woodhull Foundation

More Information

For more information, please visit CDT's website.

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Social media surveillance proposal would prove ineffective and violates privacy rights   (CBPproposalsocialmedia.compressed.pdf)




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