Our personal data is important. Living in the modern era, most of what we do everyday is electronic and easily traceable with the right surveillance technology. This does not mean every civilian will know your whereabouts. But it does mean government agencies can track bills/late payments/mortgages, etc. The way technology impacts our lives has of course positive and negative effects.
On the one hand, being able to pay your phone bill, and your rent, for example, with the click of a button adds a certain convenience to our lives. Financial technologies reduce stress and help us manage our finances more readily. However, on the other hand, our data becomes stored, which means it can be dug up. This is where abuses of power are common.
How it affects immigration
This issue need not affect your green card application or LPR status in the United States. Yet the availability of data to big companies is now creating issues. In one example, a marriage green card application was denied years ago due to having a “Single” status on her Facebook account. She had in fact been legally married for over a year. Thus more personal information available in the space of the Internet can create problems, in this case on the basis of an admissibility requirement and USCIS discretion.
ICE has a new contract with Thomson Reuters
What else should non-citizens have to worry about?
In fact, Georgetown Law researchers discovered recently that ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has a $21 million dollar contract with Thomson Reuters, paying the media organization for one of their legal investigation software solutions—CLEAR.
CLEAR documents say the database includes billions of records related to people’s employment, housing, credit reports, criminal histories and vehicle registration numbers from utility companies in all 50 states, including Puerto Rico and Guam. In other words, if your vehicle registration has expired and immigration finds out, you could be faced with a penalty. What’s more, the database is updated daily, meaning even a recent move or new utility sign-up could be reflected in an individual search.
This new finding reveals that enforcement officers are violating a clear breach of privacy and looking for new violations amongst the immigrant communities in the U.S. At the same time, immigration officials have declined to comment on the matter and have stated that doing so would compromise their investigative techniques.
How non-citizens can protect their data
Non-citizens, and citizens alike, however, can protect themselves. For example, if you are a green card holder who has recently moved to a new address, make sure you call your bank, call the USPS, and change your online accounts to only reflect your new and current address. Being consistent like this helps remove any suspicion officers might have. Doing other simple updates to your online accounts and making things current will prevent you from incurring any possible violations.
In addition, some experts warn to delete Apps that you aren’t using anymore. Apps often have built-in GPS systems and also store your data forever unless the App is permanently erased from your phone. Oftentimes, however, users will take an App off of their main smartphone screen, but won’t actually delete their profile they created within the App itself.
Finally, if those who might be worried about any other inadmissibility issue they might be having or think may come up in the future, they should contact, or at least be familiar with an attorney in their community. Some attorneys will give you legal advice for free. Or they will simply direct you to filing a waiver for example—many immigration applicants or even green card holders could be eligible for an I-601. This USCIS often helps many individuals who need to file paperwork but are scared to because of the fear of being deported.
While the new age of digital monitoring can be scary and anxiety provoking for some, it is important to always use the resources available to you to make sure you aren’t blamed for an immigration violation.