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Documents Reveal Widespread Use of Fake Social Media Accounts by DHS

September 05, 2023 (1 min read)

Brennan Center for Justice, Sept. 5, 2023

"The Department of Homeland Security routinely uses fake social media accounts to collect information about people, according to over 3,000 pages of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Brennan Center. The internal records include guidance for agency personnel and emails — but there is little or no evidence of adequate rules to protect Americans’ privacy rights.

For years, we have raised concerns about DHS’s collection and use of social media data, which is used for purposes ranging from visa application screening to monitoring First Amendment–protected activity to automated (and unproven) programs that purport to predict whether travelers pose a risk of engaging in criminal or terrorist activity. Information about the scope of social media data collection and monitoring is sorely lacking, making it impossible for the public to adequately evaluate the risks or sufficiency of any privacy safeguards that might be in place.

The Brennan Center sued the department in 2020 to force the release of relevant records covering DHS headquarters, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The documents we ultimately obtained paint a picture of a department focused heavily on enabling its agents to hide their identities while using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, despite the intrusiveness of the practice. The tactic also violates Facebook’s user policy, which requires people to use their real names, as the platform has told law enforcement agencies on multiple occasions. ... "