The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, DHS, has announced it will collect and monitor social media information of immigrants, permanent residents as well as naturalized citizens.
The information collected will not be limited to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels but will also extend to the "search results."
The announcement however, has not clarified whether DHS will have access to Google or other search engine histories. The new policy is expected to take effect on October 18.
As part of the latest vetting measures, the information taken will "include publicly available information obtained from the internet, public records, public institutions, interviewees, commercial data providers, and information obtained and disclosed pursuant to information sharing agreements;"
Adam Schwartz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Buzzfeed News,
"There’s a growing trend at the Department of Homeland Security to be snooping on the social media of immigrants and foreigners and we think it’s an invasion of privacy and deters freedom of speech."
Cesar Cuauhtemoc Garcia Hernandez, the assistant professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, told Buzzfeed there was the risk the DHS could draw incorrect conclusions from the information.
"The fact that information gleamed from Facebook or Instagram or other social media networks might not be reliable doesn't mean that it will preclude DHS from using it as a basis for excluding people from the United States," Garcia Hernandez said.
"Folks might share a post on social media that seems ripe for government officials to use as the hook for a conversation that starts to resemble an ideological purity test," he added.
The latest measures come amid a broader plan to step up vetting of refugees and immigrants in the United States.
On Sunday, the Trump announced sanctions on seven countries and released a new travel ban on most citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea.
In June, as part of a "more rigorous national security vetting," Trump administration also laid out an extensive questionnaire asking new applicants to disclose social media handles, biographical information for the past 15 years, all email addresses, names and addresses of spouses, among other details.
In February, a DHS report revealed that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service had been using social media since 2015, "in a limited capacity but had no experience using it as a large-scale screening tool."
Another pilot project initiated by DHS in April, "was to expand screening to an additional, predominately, applicants through use of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency" the report stated.