Homeland security uses Facebook to debunk “green card marriages”

The U.S. government is embracing Facebook and may be looking to be your friend.

The Department of Homeland Security is turning to the popular social media site to determine whether applicants for citizenship are guilty of entering into “green card marriages.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services documents reveal how immigration agents are instructed on how to “friend” applicants for citizenship on social networking sites to observe their lives and determine if their marriages are actually valid.

The advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation uncovered these documents that base their success on the theory that “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 cyber-friends that they don’t even know…This provides an excellent vantage point for [the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security] to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities.”

Although the government’s action are legal, the EFF argue that this form of validation should be cautioned.  Apart from characterizing those with a large friend network as having ‘narcissistic tendencies’, this method relies on the fact that online profiles accurately reflect offline lives.
And since the agents are not required to reveal their identities or jobs when “friending” users, it is possible for agents to monitor more users than just the applicants.

EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch says that “Unfortunately, this memo suggests there’s nothing to prevent an exaggerated, harmless or even out-of-date off-hand comment in a status update from quickly becoming the subject of a full citizenship investigation.”

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