DHS Attack on Privacy Rights

DHS Attack on Privacy Rights

The Progressive Librarians Guild Opposes Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Attack on Privacy Rights

Under the guise of “security” DHS has issued a notification and called for comments on a change to the Privacy Act of 1974 that it will now not only track social media of immigrants, naturalized citizens, permanent residents and anyone else who can be considered an “associate” of these, but will also permanently store that information for purposes of law enforcement.

DHS’s action is an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of (1) immigrants, (2) naturalized citizens, and (3) others who associate with them (it is unclear as to what exactly constitutes an “associate”).

The announcement also lists the places from which it will gather data, "publicly available information obtained from the internet, public records, public institutions, interviewees, commercial data providers and information obtained and disclosed pursuant to information sharing agreements." [1]

Many have expressed concern at this development set to become law on October 18, 2017. Faiz Shakir, national political director for the American Civil Liberties Union, has responded that,

"This Privacy Act notice makes clear that the government intends to retain the social media information of people who have immigrated to this country, singling out a huge group of people to maintain files on what they say. This would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the free speech that’s expressed every day on social media. This collect-it-all approach is ineffective to protect national security and is one more example of the Trump administration's anti-immigrant agenda." [2]

Adam Schwartz writing for the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that,

"The context of DHS’s notice is troubling. DHS increasingly is subjecting immigrants to many kinds of high tech surveillance, including facial recognition and cell site simulators. Moreover, government increasingly is using social media monitoring against political dissidents such as Black Lives Matter." [3]

Within the context of librarianship, it appears as though any library or librarian who supplies information to immigrants regarding benefits available to them and the process of becoming a naturalized citizen would be subject to this monitoring, data collection and retention.

The Progressive Librarians Guild stands with both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in opposing this development.


1. Privacy Act of 1974; System of Records: A Notice by the Homeland Security Department on 9/18/2017 (2017). Federal Register. Web. 18 September 2017: link, accessed 30 September 2017.

2. ACLU Comment on Homeland Security Notice on Immigrant’s Social Media Information (2017). Web. 26 September 2017: link, accessed 30 September 2017.

3. Schwartz, Adam (2017). Stop DHS Social Media Monitoring of Immigrants. Electronic Frontier Foundation. Web. 28 September 2017: link, accessed 30 September 2017.

NOTE: This is a slightly expanded version of the comment posted to the Federal Register issued 1 October 2017 [link]

Image: EntreView [link].