Homeland Security to gather more social media data of immigrants

Posted: Updated:

The Department of Homeland Security is updating its social media data gathering policy on immigrants.

The DHS recently posted on the federal registers its plans to expand its social media data gathering on immigrants to include a person’s social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information and search results. The data will be placed in a permanent filed referred to as the alien file.

The move to keep track of immigrants through their social media has immigration advocates concerned.

“It’s an intimidation tactic meant to send a message to people who are immigrants that the government is watching them,” says Nelson Melgar, of the North Shore Hispanic Association. "If people feel like whatever they say will now be collected and stored and kept in a file and amassed in such a way then they will be hesitant to exercise, in my view, their First Amendment rights." 

Counterterrorism experts in favor of the policy say social media plays an important role in today's society and that this is one way to help protect the safety of U.S. citizens.

"We know that terrorists use social media,” says counterterrorism expert Denis Monette. “We know for instance that MS-13 and other gangs are using social media, so what we have to do is strike a balance between privacy rights and rights of people to prevent them from getting injured or killed by attacks or bombings."

The policy is due to go into effect Oct. 18. Officials tell News 12 Long Island that there is a review process and the changes are subject to public comment. 

 

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