The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers processing visa, green card, and citizenship applications can now create fake accounts in social media, in order to seek further information on applicants.
USCIS posted a statement last Friday, explaining that it will authorize its investigators to create fake accounts under fake identities so they could have access to the social media accounts of the applicants and detect potential evidence of fraud or security concerns.
According to the USCIS statement, officers in the agency’s Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate would conduct the review of social media on cases flagged as requiring more investigation. The statement highlights that the officers cannot “friend” or “follow” an individual — bur will rather review publicly available social media available to all users on the platform.
According to a Twitter statement, it is against their policies to use a false identity and twitter data for persistent surveillance of any user.
“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,” the statement read.
Both Twitter and Facebook recently shut down numerous accounts under suspicions the Chinese government officials for information operations, operated them under false identities.
The decision of the USCIS follows a previous one of the US State Department, which in June approved a proposal that suggested travelers to the US should submit information on the social media they use, in addition to the standard required documents.
According to the proposal, travelers in need of a US visa will soon have to submit a list of the social media they use, and the name of their account in each, as a part of their US Visa application. In addition, nearly all applicants will have to submit their phone number, email and social media history of the five previous years.
This measure comes due to the ‘extreme vetting’ that the US State Department wants to start applying, which has also been one of the biggest electoral promises of President Trump as a way to combat terrorism.
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