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:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

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