The Identity Project and ten other civil liberties and human rights organizations filed comments today with the US Department of Homeland Security objecting to the DHS keeping records of what we say and publish and who we associate with on social media.
(See our FAQ: U.S. government monitoring of social media. The DHS isn’t the only Federal agency spying on us on social media. We submitted comments earlier this month on parallel proposals by the Department of State to expand social media monitoring that it began last year over our objections and those of many other organizations and individuals.)
The comments from civil liberties and human rights groups were submitted in response to a notice from the DHS last month that “Social media handles and aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” would be added to DHS “Alien Files”.
Our comments were co-signed and submitted jointly on behalf of:
- The Identity Project (IDP)
- Government Information Watch
- National Workrights Institute
- Woodhull Freedom Foundation
- American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
- Cyber Privacy Project (CPP)
- Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
- National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC)
- Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF)
- Restore The Fourth, Inc.
Members of the public (regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens or residents) can submit their own comments, including anonymous comments, until midnight tonight, Washington DC time, by using the official Web form at Regulations.gov.
The DHS only published its formal Privacy Act notice for social media records in September 2017, although the DHS says it has been monitoring and keeping records of social media activities since at least 2012. The Federal Privacy Act of 1974 requires that a notice be published in the Federal Register before any new system of records about individuals is created by a Federal agency, or a new category of data or individuals is added to an existing system. Operation of a system of records without prior publication of a notice including all categories of information and individuals included in the system is a Federal crime on the part of the responsible Federal officials: “Any officer or employee of any agency who willfully maintains a system of records without meeting the notice requirements of subsection (e)(4) of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined not more than $5,000.”