As an immigration lawyer, I advise couples applying for marriage-based green cards. This includes advising them as to what type of documentation they need to submit to show that they have the sorts of things that married people usually have (i.e. joint accounts, auto insurance, etc.) Now I need to see what their Facebook profile looks like too.
The Office of Fraud Detection and National Security, of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), is advising its investigators to go out and try to "friend" persons suspected of visa or other immigration fraud. The Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained an internal USCIS memorandum through a Freedom of Information Act request, that explains how investigators could use social media to find out more.
The memo explains:
Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuels a need to have a large group of "friends" link to their pages and many of these people accept cyber-friends that they don't even know. This provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities. Generally, people on these sites speak honestly in their network because all of their friends and family are interacting with them via lM's (Instant Messages), Blogs (Weblog journals), etc. This social networking gives FDNS an opportunity to reveal fraud by browsing these sites to see if petitioners and beneficiaries are in a valid relationship or are attempting to deceive CIS about their relationship. Once a user posts online, they create a public record and timeline of their activities. In essence, using MySpace and other like sites is akin to doing an unannounced cyber "site-visit" on petitioners and beneficiaries.
The memo lists the most popular social networking sites in the U.S., such as Facebook, Myspace, Classmates, and Hi-5, as well as sites across the world. Investigators are provided step-by-step instructions as to how to "friend" someone. The memo does not advise investigators to misrepresent themselves, but I wonder whether that investigator's own profile lists their employment as a USCIS Fraud Detection investigator.
Remember when your online "narcissistic tendencies" were limited to Googling yourself? And what has become of the wisecrack "If you read it online, it must be true." I guess if you posted it yourself on a social networking site, it must be true. By now, we should all know that anything sent via e-mail or posted online remains on the internet, somewhere, FOREVER.
Read the memo below:
USCIS FDNS Social Networking Site Memo