An online privacy group, the Electronic Privacy Information Centre has requested information on the DHS’s scans and contractors it claims are working with the agency to scan social media sites such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter. However their request has gone unanswered.
The group says that the government has used scans of social media before but this general ‘watching’ of social media using fake profiles is new.
‘The initiatives were designed to gather information from ‘online forums, blogs, public websites, and message boards,’ to store and analyze the information gathered, and then to ‘disseminate relevant and appropriate de-identified information to Federal, State, Local, and FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS and private sector partners,’ the group said in a court filing.
The Department of Homeland Security makes fake profiles and are tracking people who use them for the specific purpose of scanning the networks for ‘sensitive’ words such as ‘illegal immigrant’, ‘outbreak’, ‘drill’, ‘strain’, ‘virus’, ‘recovery’, ‘deaths’, ‘collapse’, ‘human to animal’ and ‘trojan’, according to an ‘impact asssessment’ document filed by the agency.
Using a word or phrase from the DHS’s ‘watch’ list could mean that spies from the government read your posts, investigate your account, and attempt to identify you from it.
When its search tools net an account using the phrases, they record personal information, and it’s still not clear how this information is used – and who the DHS shares it with.