DHS Wants to Collect Social Media Handles and Other Info from Immigrants, Naturalized Citizens

The Department of Homeland Security wants to include "social media handles and aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results" in the alien files, or "A-Files," it maintains for everyone who has gone through the immigration system, including naturalized citizens.

In a notice posted to the Federal Register last week, the department said it would use "publicly available information from the internet" as well as public records and commercial data providers to obtain the information.

The files—which also include information on immigration status, professional accreditation, and family, travel, education, employment, and criminal history—are shared with other government agencies, revealing the intimate connection between onerous immigration enforcement and the architecture of a police state.

Critics of the proposed rules point out that social media information has been found to be pretty unuseful for any kind of vetting or other immigration investigation. But the government likes collecting information whether or not it's useful. The National Security Agency, for example, is overwhelmed with the data it collects on American citizens.

Though the information may be useless for any legitimate government function, it is ripe for abuse, whether by individual government employees or by an unaccountable agency.

The DHS's rules change notice is open for public comment for three more weeks. Immigrants and naturalized citizens can actually request their A-Files; for information on how to do that, go here.