OnGuard Online, a website by the Federal Trade Commission, urges people to exercise discretion when using social networking sites. While their advice is targeted towards parents of young children, it applies equally to people of all ages.
In general, the FTC cautions people to only post information to social networking sites that they are comfortable with others seeing. While the FTC recommends the use of privacy settings to restrict access to your social networking profile, we would add that once you send an e-mail or post a message or photo on your social networking page, this information can easily be viewed by or forwarded to persons outside of your intended network, regardless of your privacy settings.
Ironically, while the FTC is busy warning people about the perils of social networking sites, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken an opposite stance. The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently uncovered the DHS’s efforts to harvest information from unsuspecting people on social networking sites. In a memo entitled Social Networking Sites and Their Importance to FDNS, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service explained how to perform an “unannounced cyber ‘site-visit'”:
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 [Fraud Detection and National Security] 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 IM’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 [Citizenship and Immigration Service] about their relationship.
So, if you are active on Facebook or other social networking sites, be careful of what you post and who you friend. And, if you are applying for or seeking a fiancé visa, it is best to keep those work spouse jokes off of Facebook. You don’t want to raise unwarranted suspicion from humorless government officials. Better yet, pare back on the friends you don’t truly know.