Department of Homeland Security to Collect Social Media of Immigrants and Citizens

New rules give the DHS permission to collect “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” as part of people’s immigration files. The Federal Register has the details, which seems to also include US citizens that communicate with immigrants.

This is part of the general trend to scrutinize people coming into the US more, but it’s hard to get too worked up about the DHS accessing publicly available information. More disturbing is the trend of occasionally asking for social media passwords at the border.

Posted on September 28, 2017 at 7:43 AM43 Comments


Clive Robinson September 28, 2017 7:59 AM

I guess we should be both supprised and outraged by this..

But lets be honest, how many readers here did not see this comming. Or for that matter the worse that will follow it.

The lesson is not to have such identifiers on you or in your devices etc anywhere you are likely to come into contact with the DHS persons such as the CBP or just about anyone else on the Fedral Payrole that can hold out their hand for “Your Papers”…

As far as “issolationist moves” go it’s yet another one, because it discourages people to visit the USA.

I guess the question about accademic and similar confrences arises yet again as it did back in “the naughties” when the DHS started taking peoples index finger prints.

So once again the advice of “no electronics, or dairies, phone/contact books when you cross ehat the USA considers it’s boarder (atleast a hundred miles out and definitely a hundred miles in).

John Bray September 28, 2017 8:11 AM

This kind of security theatre is one reason why I’ve stopped visiting the States from the UK (and I’d been looking forward to the 2017 eclipse since 1999)

Anyone with nefarious intent will have squeaky clean cover accounts, so it well only produce false positives, and I value my privacy.

I visited the US 10 times in 20 years, and lived there for 2 years, but have not been since 2011. I only hope DHS see sense before the 2024 eclipse, as you’d have thought I was a friend of the country.

Czerno September 28, 2017 8:48 AM

As part of a law to be adopted in France as a permanent replacement for the so-called “state of emergency” – which as the name implies cannot last forever, decently, – the government of France is introducing an amendment which, if adopted, will oblige the people, suspected of (but not judged or condemned) terrorist activities or sympathies to provide all their social media identifiers to law enforcement authorities.

As has been said on this blog, I think, about comparable measures elsewhere, the question arises : how are such obligations enforceable, and what will the consequences be if someone refuses to provide their social media ids, claiming s/he doesn’t have any ?

Daniel September 28, 2017 9:03 AM

“but it’s hard to get too worked up about the DHS accessing publicly available information.”

From a strict cybersecurity perspective I see what you are saying but I perceive such a strict way of looking at the issue as misguided. Fundamentally, it is one more nail in the coffin of privacy. I don’t support this idea that once one goes out in “public” and does something more loses all privacy interest in one’s behavior. Sure, I’ll accept that privacy rights in public may be diminished compared to what is done in the privacy of one’s own home but the situation isn’t binary, all or nothing. To me, what you are saying @brcue sounds an awful lot like “she was drunk, she deserved to be raped. She opened herself up to it.” or “Well, if she didn’t want sex why did she dress that way?” A person should be able to post something on social media without the informational equivalent of being raped just like someone should be able to dress how the want in public without fear of being raped.

In the end, if people can’t retain any privacy interest in their data people will just stop using social media or use social media very differently. I think that will make society as a whole worse off in the long-run.

parabarbarian September 28, 2017 9:26 AM

This is not really unexpected.

Facebook, Google and a host of others have been hoovering up our personal data for well over a decade. Those corporations are now quite open about it but how many people are abandoning Facebook or moving from Google? How many are migrating off of YouTube? Not many in my experience. Americans and Europeans both accepted the corporate leash and few are willing to remove it.

Maybe life really is better for you when Google protects you from unacceptable opinions and Facebook helps advertisers hawk the right products to you. This is just the next step. Where Google leads, government follows.

v September 28, 2017 9:43 AM

@John Bray

I don’t share the same fascination with eclipses as you do but I mirror your sentiment on US Border Control – I too have lived there in the past and now avoid going.

USBC – quasi military approach, lack of respect, jumped up jobsworth mentality, propensity to scream at people re. yellow lines all belie a country already as isolationist as Trump supporters would have it.

A great shame.

Re. increased social media scrutiny – the maxim that locks are only effective at keeping out honest people is lost on the DHS.

Dan Phiffer September 28, 2017 9:53 AM

Yeah, I also have a hard time with that phrase: “but it’s hard to get too worked up about the DHS accessing publicly available information.”

This is about surveillance being used to silence (and diminish the organizing potential of) a specific group through chilling effects.

With all due respect, check your privilege.

WordWright September 28, 2017 10:56 AM

“…it’s hard to get too worked up about the DHS accessing publicly available information…”

What the hell? Did you read your own post? “New rules give the DHS permission to collect ‘social media HANDLES, ALIASES, ASSOCIATED IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION…'”

Take this comment of mine right here. I intentionally used not-my-real-name. I did that because I specifically don’t want you to know that we’re coworkers*, and I don’t want the federal government to know that I just called them a police state who violates the civil rights of immigrants, among others. I don’t want them to know that because my naturalization is still in progress**. My statement is public, but my identify sure as hell is not.

Sadly, since my naturalization case is still open, I’ll now have to tell them that I post online under the alias “WordWright.” And then they’ll find this post and realize I said mean things about them. Which is OK because the first amendment doesn’t apply to me? Is that it?

  • OK, we’re not really. As far as YOU know.
    ** OK, it’s not really. As far as YOU know.

albert September 28, 2017 11:38 AM

“…will just stop using social media or use social media very differently. I think that will make society as a whole worse off in the long-run….” How do you ‘use social media differently’? You either use it, or you don’t. One gives up ones privacy in order to use it. That’s the price one pays, and most people don’t even think about it. Forget privacy rules or laws. They’re just window dressing. What if everyone suddenly stopped using social media?
@Dan Phiffer,
Close to the nail. Not ‘a specific group’, -any- specific group. We can see the government gradually clamping down on criticism, analysis, protests, and travel, applied to journalists, activists, and critics. It has a fetish for control, in any form. If you don’t tow the party line, you’re blacklisted.

@immigrants, visitors, etc.
Don’t feel singled out. Our gov’t is an equal opportunity violator of human rights. Even rich white men can have problems. It’s not The Donalds fault, he’s a malignant narcissist, a reflection of those who run the Shadow Government.

Someday, perhaps, folks will wake up and find themselves in a bonafide police state. Of course, then it’ll be too late.

. .. . .. — ….

Peter September 28, 2017 1:36 PM

Thankfully I do not use any social media so there are not accounts to share nor to lie about.
And i do not travel with data. I use a clean phone and I swop ssd in my laptop in case I have to bring it abroad.

Jim Andrakakis September 28, 2017 1:37 PM

I have a Facebook profile and almost everything (except for a few chosen things) is “friends only”.

How is this publicly available information?

DefinitelyNotBrianParks September 28, 2017 1:50 PM

@albert: if the US were a police state, how would you know? How do you know it isn’t right now?

To a rough approximation, 95% of Germans were never put on a train, interrogated by the Gestapo, or otherwise molested in any way. Their life under the Reich was more or less the same as it was under the Weimar republic, except that it was better in many ways.

It’s true they showed their papers, but so what? We show our driver’s license a dozen times a week, and give out our SSN to do any financial transaction or receive health care, among other things. My DL is equivalent to a passport: I had to show my passport (among other proofs of identity) just to receive it, and it has a little gold star on it indicating as much. And now I have to show it when I travel by most forms of conveyance, and whenever a cop asks me to.

Etc., etc. That’s actually a tangential question, provoked by your “someday, perhaps.” I actually replied to address your question:

How do you ‘use social media differently’? You either use it, or you don’t. One gives up ones privacy in order to use it.

Really? I used to use social media under my full name — back in the early days, when spoofing wasn’t hard but many of us saw no reason to. My university’s default UNIX account setup included my full name for email purposes, and tin used the same config for my usenet posts. There’s not much I can do about it now, but luckily that was almost 30 years ago and most folks aren’t going to go spelunking so far into the past.

Now I use social media under various aliases. Aliases that I can now be required to hand over to the government if I want a green card.

Of course I realize that the NSA has most of my Internet activity for at least the past several years warehoused, indexed, and searchable, along with enough metadata to link my social activity with my Amazon purchasing activity, say, and thus to my identity. But this post isn’t about what the NSA knows about me — and for now, at least, other parts of government aren’t allowed to search the NSA databases, if only to prevent widespread realization just how complete they are.

So taking the NSA out of the equation, I take comfort knowing that at least my local police don’t know that I’m AKA SexyFurryGroundhogBoy, and that I post lots of erotic fiction with a BDSM theme in which furry doms introduce vanilla cops to the joys of submission.

Bob September 28, 2017 1:52 PM

DHS and Patriot was made to circumvent law and agency by the executive branch. Using outlier stat to justify whatever. MOTS. Special thanks to Junior.

No, they are not isolationist. They want control of the kind of cheap labor they bring here. You would call it protectionist or nationalist to not let them here to begin with.

Notice the stupid grin on Zuckerberg’s face. It’s because he is taking boatloads of cash from the govt. Do you really think his crappy ad space is paying off? I don’t buy into his superhero attitude of policing social media.

I have an idea. Let’s kick politicians off of social media.

I also have a better conspiracy that works. The US built honeypots on social media to see if they can grab anybody. Just like torrent trackers netted by Cloudflare, the moment you try to upload is the moment you get caught. That type of DOJ baiting.

Clive Robinson September 28, 2017 2:01 PM

@ Jim Andrakakis,

How is this publicly available information?

It depends on your jurisdiction but roughly it’s the “Third party doctrine” of “business records” or similar. It’, more or less the same for most of your other records.

It’s only where there is legislation that gives a duty of “privilege” on the other –usually second– party that a level of confidentiality –not privacy– exists.

In the US unlike some other jurisdictions, unprivileged information also as a general rule belongs to who ever collects it…

Thus with other similar records it becomes a “work”, and as with any other “work” they have rights over it such as copyright, the ability to sell it, give it away, etc etc.

DefinitelyNotBrianParks September 28, 2017 2:12 PM


Notice the stupid grin on Zuckerberg’s face. It’s because he is taking boatloads of cash from the govt.

Yeah, it suddenly surprised me to realize that people talk about warrants, and they talk about national security letters, but they don’t talk about the possibility of the government simply buying Facebook’s data outright — either directly or though a straw purchaser. I now have no doubt whatsoever that this has happened.


It depends on your jurisdiction but roughly it’s the “Third party doctrine” of “business records” or similar. It’, more or less the same for most of your other records.

True, and it’s an abomination. It basically says that anything you would willingly tell anyone, you are presumed willing to tell the cops as well.

Still, at least some action is required in order to get that information. A warrant isn’t needed, which is terrible, but they don’t automatically have all that information at their fingertips. Laws like this increase the mischief. Somewhere between “inaccessible even with a warrant” and “published in the newspaper for your neighbors to read” is a tolerable position — and it’s closer to the former than the latter.

Daniel September 28, 2017 3:02 PM

@albert writes, “How do you ‘use social media differently’? You either use it, or you don’t.”

One lies, disassembles, engages in terminological inexactitudes.

Oh course, maybe you are doing this already so it isn’t something new for you. But in general I’m opposed to creating policies where it is typical for people to lie in response. That’s the exact opposite of creating the trust that society needs to survive.

Jonathan Wilson September 28, 2017 3:17 PM

I dont have a Facebook account and have no desire to get one (for all sorts of reasons). What happens when I tell the border agent that I have no Facebook account? What about someone who genuinely have no social media accounts at all?

Wael September 28, 2017 3:28 PM

@Jonathan Wilson,

What about someone who genuinely have no social media accounts at all?

That’s the “happy story”. What if someone created an account on your behalf like they did to our host on LinkedIn? What if someone knew you’re traveling and created an account on your behalf with all the juicy content (chatter, plots… the works?) Good luck explaining that to the investigator,

Pete September 28, 2017 3:40 PM

I have a few social media accounts. None are connected to my real name. I couldn’t tell you any of those account names. Do forum accounts count? Would that be a lie if I said I didn’t know them? I don’t know for certain what their names are either. Plus some aren’t inside the USA, so that would not be any of the DHS business, IMHO.

We are entering the age of the thought police.

Clive Robinson September 28, 2017 4:27 PM

@ Wael,

What if someone created an account on your behalf like they did to our host on LinkedIn?

Unlike our host my name is not that rare, and it turns out there are several on LinkedIn already from the UK alone. Likewise there are similar on twitter and facecrook.

Not that I would expect –from the few I’ve met– a front line DHS “Brown Shirt” to comprehend that…

The real problem with this is “assumptions” that you of course have social media, and that you are not innocent.

It’s not just the US where the burden of proving you are innocent is now a legal requirment, that you have to bear at all times, less you get the “knock” or these days held up at gun point by hillbilly brains in blue etc with itchy fingers and no liability on twitching it…

Speaking of which this might amuse, the phrase “you couldn’t make it up” springs to mind 😀

Wael September 28, 2017 5:17 PM

@Clive Robinson,

It’s not just the US where the burden of proving you are innocent

So now having a social media account is tantamount to being guilty?

Itchy-fingers officer: login to your account, sir!
You: got no social media accounts!
Itchy-fingers officer: You do too. I see these accounts with your name on them. Login right now, boi!
You: No can do, I don’t own them. I ain’t into social media
Itchy-fingers officer: Prove it!
You: I’m aspie, dawg!
Itchy-fingers officer: Heh? Alright. Next time make sure your not aspie… pass on. Next!

Amusing story! Someone told the officer his aim is “shot”. His reply was: aim, my foot.

What I find amusing is the “not life threatening” part. In UK-jargon that means: his job position is in jeopardy 😉

Sancho_P September 28, 2017 5:56 PM

Um, re ”… but it’s hard to get too worked up …” (@Bruce)

Reading that twice I think the text is OK.
The information is public, to access it isn’t wrong or taboo for LEO’s.
It’s wrong to demand your social handles, this is the stripping of privacy.
This is what works us up: Connect the dots, open your mind, your deepest feelings, to everybody, and knowing this guy / gal / org will lose / share them.
Unfortunately @Bruce doesn’t seem to see it?

Sancho_P September 28, 2017 5:58 PM

@Cerno re claimings/he doesn’t have any (social media ID’s)

What is social media? Schneier on Security?
Similar to: What is encrypted? What we (they) don’t understand?

However, don’t lie to any LEO in the US, the consequences may force you into a costly plea bargain, regardless what you did or didn’t otherwise.
See and the linked EFF pdf (excellent!).

The consequences for social media may be very welcome!

Sancho_P September 28, 2017 6:02 PM

They don’t have a valid register of US citizens, but want a valid DB of US + the world when crossing the border.
This is a joke, isn’t it?
The A-file: A huge DB where the names are not simply John Doe in US characters and language [1]. Good luck.
Add more redundant + irrelevant data in different databases to increase the mess.

As history knows, whatever data they collect electronically, they will lose (“share”) it, and in case of the USG, the Russians, Chinese and NK will add dummy data aplenty only to destroy America.
Please ask facecrook to handle the data, they have better security!

[1] I’m already represented by at least two Alien Numbers in USCIS ELIS. Every time when visiting the US I expect the bubble to burst, and of course, to suffer from their DB fault(s).

Bob September 28, 2017 6:51 PM

“This is a joke, isn’t it?”
Yes. Just like the great wall, Trump trying to do everything in his power(beyond his power) to go around NAFTA agreement and Canada/Mexico border agreement. You can cross the border for x number of hours without a visa… as long as you don’t get arrested and profiled.

Good question, how cooperative are countries with criminal DB sharing?

It is like Indians have told me, the US is a twisted fantasy park where pieces of rollercoaster track are missing. But that’s okay, only parts of the course have been removed.

I foresee a future of genital and hemorrhoid recognition on Facebook.

Clive Robinson September 28, 2017 7:26 PM

@ Bob,

I foresee a future of genital and hemorrhoid recognition on Facebook.

Ahh a new game for the DHS frontline staff to play catch up with… First, put on the black rubber elbow gloves and then bounce the balls like whack-a-mole with the Maglight flash light. If you don’t hit pay dirt spin the other unfortunate player around for an enlightening experience, whilst toe touching… Just another way for them to have lots of fun, which begs the questionof why the Federal Gove is paying them to play theor trippy little games…

John Smith September 28, 2017 7:28 PM


“…What if someone created an account on your behalf like they did to our host on LinkedIn? What if someone knew you’re traveling and created an account on your behalf with all the juicy content (chatter, plots… the works?) Good luck explaining that to the investigator…”

What if LEOs (rapidly becoming an oxymoron) create accounts on your behalf, to pressure you into turning informer, because you, although innocent, have access to someone the LEOs are investigating but can’t easily reach?

“Nice life you have here – family, job, home. Be a real shame if anything happened to it… Just do us this small favor, and those pesky social media accounts with pedophilic overtones will disappear. DHS need never know.”

Wael September 28, 2017 7:39 PM

@John Smith,

What if LEOs (rapidly becoming an oxymoron) create accounts on your behalf…

That’s even worse; a vector of probable cause creation! Or an exhibit in a court room setting to prove certain character inclinations that undermines defense.

tyr September 28, 2017 10:31 PM

@Clive, Wael

I’m not so sure we aren’t in a police state
everywhere. Just because they haven’t stopped
an individual for a French police ID that
would cost you $50 USD in LA or slammed your
face on the ground because they don’t like
your ‘attitude’ yet doesn’t mean that all of
the apparatus hasn’t been built yet around
us all. The tech is just too convenient for
uses that reasonable people despise.

What I despise is the weasely hypocrisy of
the pretense it is keeping us safe from some
statistically insignifigant threat that is
better handled by routine police work.

The news today is that some idiot called an
air strike into Kabul because the Taliban
fired a few rockets in the area of the
airport where the coalition bigwigs were
arriving. Having read the history of the
British withdrawal casualties I cringe every
time I see this kind of behavior. Once a
misguided policy takes hold the tendency is
to see it as a one size fits all solution
and failures have no effect on changing it.

Wael September 28, 2017 11:47 PM

@tyr, @Clive Robinson,

What I despise is the weasely hypocrisy of the pretense it is keeping us safe …

It’s a double edged sword. What can keep us safe can also make us insecure, vulnerable and exposed.

225 September 29, 2017 2:06 AM

I think most of the USA, UK, commonwealth countries allow people to submit facebook screenshots and (links to verify) for applying for immigration visas so this might just be the next step. The difference is this is done voluntarily by the person to show evidence of a committed relationship or something else.

If you already think of facebook as a large LEO database then this is not a surprise.

Clive Robinson September 29, 2017 7:16 AM

@ tyr, Wael,

[I]t doesn’t mean that all of the apparatus hasn’t been built yet around us all. The tech,is just too convenient for uses that reasonable people despise.

Whilst the apparatus for a “police state everywhere” does exist, there are both practical and reaource limits holding it back.

As I’ve mentioned before, I can leave my house and walk to the main road unobserved by any apparatus a police state would currently use. I can even walk for a reasonable distance in either direction along the main road, certainly sufficient to turn into a number of side roads before I get into view of such equipment. The nearest would “see me” around 3/4Km due to “a crime spot” and in the other direction I’m not sure but getting on for 2-3Km. Both of these can be easily avoided by using side roads that bypass them.

Thus for real world or public place surveillance the level of actual surveillance is low, and fairly predictable due to crime or traffic hot spots. In fact with a little for thought I can get around twenty miles away from where I live in many directions and not be seen by the civil / central state and their guard labour. Of the 1260 square miles probably only 2-3 square miles are covered. Which although it sounds small is actually about 5% of street area. Because a lot of the land is not public roads but private property or urban/countryside areas.

However when we consider the cyber world it’s altogether different. Anything sent via a “common carrier” Internet/phone/courier or mail service is as we know recorded in some way (by the dictionary meaning of recorded, not the “Spookworks excuse”). But worse some of the technology used although mobile talks to the network thus giving up it’s location every few seconds to minutes depending on how fast you traverse a cell.

As I’ve indicated before, the mobile equipment used for phones has inherited 80years of being “got at” by the state security organisations of the United Kingdom and other sovereign nations that are involved with setting international standards. Just about everything that has a non direct “Health and Safety” reason is most probably “Spookworks” inspired and certainly after WWII the UK and USA due to the BRUSA memorandum of understanding and later the FiveEyes nations have played “standards tag” at the likes of the ITU and other International standards organisations dealing with communications to ensure that surveillance friendly clauses/rules are included. In the UK it’s known as “finessing” the term borrowed from the card game bridge. A term other FiveEyes etc partners have picked up over the years.

So we have a very distinct difference in levels of surveillance between the physical and cyber world currenty. Which is why we have seen interest in surveillance blimps and drones, that have no problem “trespassing” over non public roads etc. A UK defence company a few years back developed a “compound eye” using very low cost cell phone cameras, that gave the equivalent of a 4,000,000 by 4,000,000 pixel camera. Which is enough to cover a small town from 10-20 thousand feet up which at what is approximately 2-4miles up means that neither the human ears or eyes can register it’s prescence and even 10GHz/3cm radar would have difficulty if the blimp/drone was made of light weight composit materials, which gives rise to air safety considerations.

Which might be it’s achilles heal… The use of surveillance planes in the US has been revealed by flight patterns and the modern equivalent of IFF tansmitting the aircraft position. Any flight diversion or other collision avoidence system will give “meta data” about blimps, drones, helicopters and aircraft used for surveilence above a 1/10th of a mile up.

So unlike the cyber surveillance that just can not be seen by individuals, physical surveillance can and does give away it is in place to the wary.

It can safely be assumed that the smarter criminals are well aware of this physical surveillance issue and thus are both wary and take passive countermeasures. Further it can be said that within certain limits the Police are not interested in such criminals because not only are their crimes hard to see, they are considerably harder to get to the point of arrests let alone convictions. Some criminals in the UK have actually got away with killing police officers engaged in surveilling them by pleading self defence in court. Whilst such people are not “untouchable” the resorces required to ensure a conviction are not just immense, but prohibitively so within the limits of the usual levels of state funding.

Likewise cyber criminals if they keep the value of each crime below the “investagitive bar” will get away with thousands of crimes almost indefinately, provided they take certain precautions, which I’m reasonably the more successful ones do.

For both types of criminal those that get caught it’s usually down to their own stupidity or lack of knowledge. Put simply they either “flap their gums / big it up” or they do not have the information to put a strong legend in place to account for the money they now have. Thus they get “noticed”…

Not being noticed is what Spooks have OpSec for especially old school physical world OpSec. The fact that most people do not have the mental stamina etc to maitain a legend reliably is what gets them caught out. I know of one case where a tattoo from “army life” gave away that the person did not fit the legend and thus they got burned by those they were performing close in “under cover” surveillance upon, simply because they wore a tee shirt not long sleeves…

But in the main the targets for surveillance these days are not who most think they are for, but they themseves…

From what I’ve written above the basis of forming elementry OpSec should be apparent. Firstly ditch where ever possible two way communications systems because the bulk of them can be used as bugs/tracking devices. Secondly avoid “hot spots” where surveillance equipment is generaly located and establish basic patterns of behaviour such that you can see close in surveillance by it’s newness / out of placeness. So taking up jogging or dog walking fills much of that especially if you include woodland or other overhead cover, that alows you to do other old school OpSec unobserved from on high[1].

So people need to start practicing a little self restraint when it comes to cyber devices and do just a little healthy basic OpSec.

Then there are the “technology” tricks you can use for counter surveillance. People tend to forget technology is agnostic to it’s use and when used in the physical world can be more benificial to someone on “home ground” than to those sent in to do surveillance.

Importantly any action has three basic phases,

1, Set up.
2, Active.
3, Tear down.

Most surveillance is very vulnerable at stages 1 and 3 to existing in place counter surveillance. It’s also very easy to “put the wind up” at stage 1, which can lead to their poor performance in phase 2. Hence the “Home Ground” advantage if you have prepared in advance.

[1] Yes they can use thermal or IR or microwave imaging through some types of cover, but there are known ways to deal with that, which I won’t go into here, as this post is long enough as it is, without having a lecture on physics attached.

Another Kevin September 29, 2017 8:52 AM

What worries me is that the demands for surveillance have become so very pervasive while at the same time, the crime of “being suspicious” is being more and more recognized as worthy of summary punishment:

“If your life isn’t an open book, that’s suspicious: you’re probably hiding something.”

Together with:

“If you’re acting suspicious, that’s criminal in and of itself. If you’re innocent and acting suspicious, you’ve wasted the time of The Authorities, and diverted them away from the real Bad Guys. It’s the equivalent of a false alarm.”

Together with:

“We can’t tell you what sorts of behaviour we find ‘suspicious’ because that would tip our hand to the Real Bad Guys.”

Let’s face it. I’m geeky, and have pursuits that the typical cop won’t understand. I’ll trip any number of microbehavioural red flags because I’m not exactly neurotypical. I don’t spend my days on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Twitter, or whatever this week’s platform is, because who has time for that? (I check Facebook fairly regularly because my family expects me to.) I enjoy wilderness travel, and occasionally am “off the grid” for days at a time – sometimes twenty miles from the nearest paved road or power line. I know enough chemistry and physics that, were I of that inclination, I could have wrought considerable havoc with household materials. My appearance runs to ‘scruffy.’ I’m not a mainstream Protestant nor a Bible-thumper.

To a cop, that spells ‘potential terrorist’.

It sounds as if I’m expected to curtail the things that I enjoy doing, join a different church, start reading insipid postings from half-strangers about their children and pets, interspersed with virulent screeds probaby displaying the Confederate flag, and cultivate a taste for stock car racing, American football, and vacations at homogenized show-places that are carefully optimized to provide sanitized entertainment whilst separating tourists from their money as efficiently as possible. (And even then, they’ll immediately see through the charade.)

And the demands for social media identification feel like enforcement of that idea. They presuppose that the above paragraph is how I’m going to spend my life. At best. At worst, they’re simply trying to root out my contacts so that they can draft me into informing against them. The folk with names like Singh, Ahmed, Santamaria, Li, and Yamato, who have features that match their names, maybe, or maybe just other people like me who “must be up to something.”

Somewhere, there’s a former schoolyard bully reading this and gloating at my discomfort.

albert September 29, 2017 11:13 AM

To all of you who think you have anonymous social media accounts: think again. “Don’t worry, be happy” is a foolish philosophy these days.

We -do- live in a police state. Just because you aren’t personally affected changes nothing. As I’ve stated before, when state propaganda (the MSM) begins to lose effectiveness, stronger policies become implemented, such as unconstitutional searches, seizures and privacy invasions. The objective is a fat, dumb and happy populace. Fairly successful, so far…

Good point about lying to LE. The FBI gets lots of indictments that way, with very little effort. It’s an easy way to exact retribution* against not-easily-proven-guilty-in-a-court-of-law suspects. Ask Martha Stewart**

It’s too bad that every brain-fart emanating from the LE/IC needs to be court tested. DHS “rules” need to be -approved- by federal courts -before- they’re applied.

Bob September 29, 2017 2:31 PM

Signing on the dotted line, the rubber glove is just like a body function. It becomes a lifestyle choice. I know they don’t think anything about probing anyone for any reason, physical or digital. They do it to themselves so they feel they owe the rest of the world a rubber fist.

You never read about the Facebook stat on how many people don’t upload photos and use the account as a placeholder. I think it will catch on, just like killing consumer cloud behavior.

But I need to share! No not really. Biggest waste of hardware and carbon footprint. The govt needs those central social sites and CAs to backdoor and watch everybody. It’s easier than email. They must cringe on private messaging.

BTW, Bruce is watching you :/

Jesse Thompson September 29, 2017 4:21 PM

@John Bray

Anyone with nefarious intent will have squeaky clean cover accounts

If I learned anything from trying out OKcupid, it’s that the metagame in cases where the system rewards lying and punishes being authentic leads everyone to invent stupid squeaky-clean cover personalities. EG dishonesty no longer becomes an indicator of nefarious intent.

In this context, two-facedness gets treated as an unchangeable element of human nature and commitment to kayfabe becomes an indicator of “Patriotism”.

Sancho_P September 29, 2017 5:47 PM

Again, the basic question is unanswered: What is deemed “social media”, what are they going to collect in their extended data collection?

When asked about your “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information” you must be prepared already what to say / write down.
The officer will look at his monitor and ask if you have more to mention.
This is the moment to enter in lying to an officer, whether you know it or not – they may have different information, be it right or wrong.

So you will say what you know, but may be still accused of lying.
“No, I don’t post under “Anonymous” @Schneier’s” – “Yes, you do” – “No, I don’t” a.s.f. until you are denied “immigration benefits”.

And they will not show evidence for their claim because of “National Security”.

Chateau Roux Debaucherers September 30, 2017 2:11 AM

Jonathan Wilson

It depends. Might get a free pass; more likely to go the “probably lying, has something to hide” route.

It’s a daft situation. Suppose I clone someone’s account and in the eyes of an officer it looks more “trustworthy” than the one you’re showing. What then?

fajensen October 2, 2017 4:40 AM

So, how long before there is a service, where for 5 bux a month one can procure a personal digital avatar that can run the DHS-mandated social media accounts and keep them updated with innocuous content?

— About 3 months after that goes online, 4Chan will figure out how to make those avatars terrorists …

Bill October 2, 2017 6:22 PM

@john bray, St. Catharines Ontario is just over the border from Buffalo, NY and in the past if totality.

TM October 10, 2017 2:41 AM

Thanks Daniel, WordWright and others. One aspect that I find troubling is that if immigrants are required to provide their social media handles to authorities, in addition to the intrusiveness, consider how easy it is to forget something. Later it turns out that you didn’t disclose your twitter account XY to authorities, you lied on your application, so your visa can be revoked and you can be deported.

Naturalization applicants already have to answer questions like this: “Have you ever been a member of or associated with any organization, association, fund foundation, party, club, society, or similar group in the United States or in any other place?”

It is almost impossible for a grown person to even remember all the groups and clubs they may at some time have been associated with.

I once heard of a case of an immigrant who was arrested for terrorism. The prosecution had no case whatsoever and the charges had to be dropped. But they discovered that the person in question, who had been naturalized, had checked a wrong box on an immigration form. It could have been an entirely innocent oversight but that wrong box was enough to revoke citizenship and deport the person. That kind of thing will become far more common in Trump’s regime of arbitrariness. Best to stay away from the US as far as possible.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.