Mohana Ravindranath | Nextgov | March 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

Watchdog: DHS Isn't Ready for Social Media to Become a Bigger Part of Visa Screening

quka/Shutterstock.com

Congress has urged the Homeland Security Department to delve into social media accounts belonging to immigrants and foreign travelers before they're allowed to enter the country, but the department isn't ready to evaluate whether it would work.

Following revelations that one of the shooters in the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack had posted messages suggesting radical tendencies on social media sites, a group of senators directed the DHS to investigate immigrants and visitors' potential ties to terrorist groups via social media.

Though DHS has piloted a handful of automated tools to search for travelers' social media accounts, the department doesn't have adequate benchmarks to evaluate whether they're working, according to a report from the Office of the Inspector General.

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

The report comes shortly after DHS Secretary John Kelly's confirmation hearing, during which he discussed eventual plans to require travelers to hand over their social media accounts and passwords before being allowed in the country.

The IG report redacts the names of the social media search tools and the classes of immigrants and travelers participating in the pilot. One U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services program—which relied on Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency technology—searched the social media posts from refugees who voluntarily handed over their account names for "derogatory social media information that could impact their eligibility for immigration benefits or admissibility into the United States." 

USCIS concluded the program had a "low 'match confidence,'" but didn't technically have benchmarks so DHS "does not know what level of match confidence would signify success or failure."

Another USCIS pilot attempted to use automated search to find confirmed social media accounts for travelers, but also "did not have metrics to measure success," the IG found. "[I]t is difficult to conclude whether finding individuals with confirmed social media accounts constitutes success."

The IG recommended the DHS' undersecretary of intelligence and analysis work both with USCIS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement—which was running a different pilot—on "well-defined, clear and measurable objectives and standards" for pilots.

DHS concurred with the recommendation.

Comments
JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.