MDF at Baltimore Data Day

Imagine that the past five years of your social-media activity suddenly became available to government officials. They could find your every errant thought posted on Twitter, every update on how your child is doing in school, every friend or follower on your Facebook page, every politically charged post, every photo of you and your loved ones on vacation.

 

Now imagine that a government assessment of your social-media presence determines whether you can enter a country.

 

For an estimated 710,000 people now applying for visas to move to the United States, this invasive nightmare has become a reality: The State Department recently announced that it now requires nearly all visa applicants to submit their social-media user names, phone numbers, and email addresses from the past five years on their visa applications.

 

For immigrants, this is only the latest egregious violation of their rights and privacy. Since the 2000s, the United States has increasingly used technology to conduct surveillance of immigrants. This comes as white-nationalist rhetoric now has intensified, and the Trump administration has sought to increase the number of immigrants detained or deported.

 

Grant makers and nonprofits must work together alongside advocates and activists to stop these violations and defend the rights of immigrants.

 

At the Media Democracy Fund, where I work, we support the organizations, advocates, and activists working to combat methods of surveillance that threaten human rights in the digital age.

 

While these affronts to human dignity and safety get far less attention than the border camps and other issues that have captured scrutiny from lawmakers, grant makers, nonprofits, the news media, and everyday citizens, it is no less urgent. Stepped-up surveillance is a problem not just for immigrants but also for people who work at nonprofits to protect those seeking asylum, refuge, and a better life in the United States.

 

Read more at Chronicle of Philanthropy