Big Brother

Gov't Uses Social Media to Check Citizenship

The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently uncovered two ways the government has been tracking people online. First, the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security uses social-networking sites to investigate citizenship petitions, the idea being that while someone might lie about being married to get citizenship, they would tell the truth online. As FDNS puts it in a 2008 memo, “Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuels a need to have a large group of ‘friends’ link to their pages and many of these people accept cyberfriends that they don’t even know. This provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities.” The second way the government has been tracking people online is through the Department of Homeland Security’s Social Networking Monitoring Center, established prior to Obama’s inauguration, which scans sites like Facebook, Twitter, NPR, and DailyKos for “items of interest.” Though the DHS slideshow the Electronic Frontier Foundation got through its FOIA stresses the elimination of “Personally Identifiable Information” in its data collection, it also says that “[o]penly divulged information excluding PII will be used for future corroboration purposes and trend analysis during the inauguration period.”