U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers now have permission to create fake social media accounts to monitor the social media information of foreigners seeking visas, green cards, and citizenship. The move reverses a prior ban on officers creating fake profiles.
Potential evidence of fraud or security concerns
The aim is to search for potential evidence of fraud or security concerns. The change in policy comes after other similar moves were implemented by the State Department such as requiring applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames.
Against Facebook and Twitter policies
"It is against our policies to use fake personae and to use Twitter data for persistent surveillance of individuals. We look forward to understanding USCIS's proposed practices to determine whether they are consistent with our terms of service," said a Twitter statement.
These reviews of social media would only be conducted by officers in the agency's Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate who will receive annual training on creating these fake accounts. In addition, the officers can only review publicly available social media and are not allowed to interact with users on the social media sites.
Dave Maass, senior investigative researcher for the civil liberties advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, toldGadget 360 that such use of fake accounts "undermines our trust in social media companies and our ability to communicate and organize and stay in touch with people."
He added: "It can't be this double standard where police can do it, but members of the general public can't."