Fake social media accounts are being used by the Homeland Security department for running background checks on individuals hoping to settle down in the United States. One of the social media companies is planning to fight this kind of background checking practice.
As per the updated policies, the U.S. Customs And Immigration Services can develop fictitious identities for accounts for accessing the social media accounts of individuals applying for citizenship green cards, work visa, and another kind of immigration benefits. Officers can collect information on any individuals associated with the applicants. This process is applicable as long as completely relevant to investigations.
Apart from the background checks, officers have permission to use this kind of fake profiles for the investigation to study broader trends and potential frauds in the vetting and immigration process.
Officers Use fake Accounts to befriend you and gather your information
As per the assessment, the fictitious accounts can be used by the officers to access the information available publicly. They are not allowed to friend, message or follow other individuals to gather more information. The DHS Privacy Office allows officers to use such accounts only when necessary. Moreover, faking profiles should not be the primary option.
Since 2012, USCIS reviews the applicants of immigration via social media. A policy document in 2014 prohibited officers explicitly from using this kind of accounts during the investigation course.
Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security Secretary in 2017 authorized the agency to develop fake profiles to publicly access the information available. The assessment which was released on Friday meant to inform the public that the practices have come into effect.
A spokesperson of USCIS said that incorporating the publicly available information reviews on the social media platforms in the process of threat detection is a common-sense measure that can strengthen the procedures of vetting and vigilance for safeguarding the legal immigration system from those who abuse and exploit it.
This announcement was made when social media firms crackdown on fictitious profiles with the effort to fight the foreign misinformation campaigns.
Not all Social Media Accounts allow use of Fake Accounts
The policies on fictitious account widely vary from one company to another. Some of the platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook prohibit users explicitly from misrepresenting online. Others like Reddit and Twitter do not require users to verify their identities or give their original names.
The spokesperson further added that authorities of Law enforcement need to use their original names for creating Facebook accounts like everyone else. This policy is made clear on the law enforcement guidelines page. He further said that the company does not allow any fake accounts and action will be taken for violating accounts.
Special training needs to be undertaken by the officers even before they stand online profiles, and they need to get special approval from supervisors’ for creating fictitious accounts. Regular audit of fake profiles is planned by the USCIS.
According to Mana Azarmi who is a policy counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, these safeguards can protect individuals’ civil and privacy liberties in a long way. It is not yet clear how they will be put into practices. Information related to social media training or justification of the fake account uses has not been yet disclosed by USCIS. She further said that it is not possible to sit here and assume that sufficient safeguards are in place for preventing abuse.