The Trump administration just said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers can create social media accounts to monitor people who wish to immigrate to America. Facebook is pushing back.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wants to create fake social media profiles so it can monitor the accounts of people seeking to enter the U.S. However, it forgot about the part where Facebook's user agreement prohibits fake accounts.
The Trump administration just reversed a directive issued in 2014 that prohibited USCIS officers from creating fake accounts and identities to monitor the social media accounts of people applying for citizenship, work visas, and green cards.
Previously, officers were only allowed to monitor public posts. However, several social media platforms limit the amount you can interact with the platform unless you have an account. So, in its quest to be as invasive and unfair to immigrants as possible, the administration will now allow the creation of fake accounts to allow for increased access.
According to USCIS, officers aren't allowed to use the accounts to interact with users — to message, follow, or friend anyone to gather data. That doesn't seem to exclude doing things like joining groups on Facebook, however, as long as they do so without interacting.
The administration was already requiring all visa applicants to give up their social media usernames, a practice it started back in June. The creation of fake accounts, says USCIS, will help them search for fraud or the incredibly vague idea of "security concerns." However, USCIS officers seem never to have reviewed the terms of the very social media platforms they want to use to surveil potential immigrants. Both Facebook and LinkedIn prohibit users from creating a fake identity or impersonating a real person. Twitter does not, but did recently purge some accounts they believed to be operated by the Chinese government under fake identities.
Immediately after the announcement, Facebook reminded the administration of its terms of service and issued a statement saying, "Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear on our public-facing law enforcement guidelines page. Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we will act on any violating accounts."
It's likely Facebook telling them no will not deter USCIS, but they're pushing back on this privacy nightmare nonetheless.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.