U.S. Department of Homeland Security New Social Media Screening for Immigration Benefit

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement pilot program for Social Media Screening for Immigration Benefit, which began last August, uses social media screening in the visa issuance process and beyond. While the inspector general report was redacted, it revealed that the agency is using a “web search tool that specializes in social media data exploitation by analyzing social media data and funneling it into actionable information,” to “help identify potential derogatory information not found in government databases.”

The report redacts the duration of Social Media Screening for Immigration Benefit, but it is clear the test program involved more than a one-time check of public-facing social media posts.

The Citizenship and Immigration Service’s social media screening for Immigration Benefit was launched in April 2016. Under that pilot, USCIS screeners requested social media information from visa applicants, then checked the information against a tool developed by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. USCIS concluded that the tool afforded a low “match confidence,” and that manual screening delivered better results. The IG report redacts data on the number of accounts USCIS was able to confirm using the DARPA tool, and the number it was not able to confirm.

Our recommendation is for anyone seeking an immigration benefit in the U.S. (whether non-immigrant or immigrant) to disable to close all social media accounts.   (more…)