A memo was recently discovered showing how federal agents actively use MySpace, Facebook and other popular social networking sites to connect with and follow the lives of individuals they investigate. The memo gives guidance to federal agents on how they can gain person insights into the romantic lives, family lives and professional lives of the individuals they are investigating. This should come as no surprise to those that use social networking and should only come as STRONG warning to be aware of who you decide to become a cyber friend with and what you share publicly. Make sure you know who your friends are and that you feel comfortable sharing with them your personal information and sometimes your exact location. As with any form of communication, you should only share on social networking sites, what you want the entire world to know. Although your communication may be intended for an intimate circle, it may unwittingly become evidence used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In its memo DHS states, “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.” They go on to say that the use of social networking to watch individual activities, “is akin to doing an unannounced cyber ‘site-visit’ on a petitioners and beneficiaries.” The best practice is to always be honest and straight forward in all your communication, especially when filing federal documents.
Just as you need to be aware of how DHS and other federal agencies might use social networking sites against you, this memo also provides insight into how social networking may be used to your advantage. If such information can be used in support of an agencies denial of your petition, then it should be equally available in support of your petition. Social networks not only cast light into false relationships, they can be equally used to support the validity of a relationship. Just as handwritten letters, photographs and e-mail communications are often used to support petitions filed with federal agencies, so can the relationship history on social networking sites. Hopefully, an investigation into your cyber life will support any assertions made in your petition leading to a quick and easy approval.
If the Department of Homeland Security somehow becomes privy to your private communications, you should not be ashamed of what they have discovered and it should only go to support any petition that you have filed with them. When it comes to social networking, filing petitions with the federal government and in all aspects of life, “honesty is the best policy.”