The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital civil liberties group based in San Francisco, has obtained information, through a Freedom of Information Act request, that USCIS uses social networking sites (such as Myspace, Facebook, etc) to investigate petitioners and/or beneficiaries for fraud by determining whether or not they are attempting to deceive USCIS for immigration benefit(s). In an internal memo obtained by EFF, USCIS stated that:
Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuels a need to have a large group of”friends” link to their pages and manyof these people accept cyber-friends that they don’t even know. This provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS [Fraud Detection and National Security] to observe the daily [lives] of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities. Generally, people on these sites speak honestly in their network because all of their friends and family are interacting with them via lM’s (Instant Messages), Blogs (Weblog journals), etc. This social networking gives FDNS an opportunity to reveal fraud by browsing these sites to see if petitioners and beneficiaries are in a valid relationship or are attempting to deceive CIS about their relationship. Once a user posts online, they create a public record and timeline of their activities. In essence, using MySpace and other like sites is akin to doing an unannounced cyber “site-visit” on a petitioners and beneficiaries. (Emphasis added)
Whether or not you or someone you know have a pending application or petition with USCIS, this aggressive ‘cyber policing’ approach without a doubt raises privacy concerns, and clearly illustrates how anyone could potentially obtain your personal information without you realizing it. Therefore, we remind you to take extra precaution in using social networking sites and to review your current social network privacy settings to ensure the safety of your personal information.