Skip Navigation

DHS Social Media Monitoring FOIA Documents

The Brennan Center obtained internal DHS documents about the department’s efforts to surveil social media.

Published: September 5, 2023

In November 2018, the Brennan Center submitted two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as two of its components, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The first request was regarding ICE’s use of the Data Analysis System, an analytical database that is used to compile and share personally identifiable information, including that of American citizens. The second request was in reference to DHS’s collection and maintenance of information stored in the National Archives and Records Administration, including social media information.

DHS referred the requests to ICE, which failed to provide any responsive documents, claiming that the requests were overly broad. Although the Brennan Center offered to refine the scope of the requests, ICE closed the requests without further response. CBP also did not provide a response or produce records. The Brennan Center, represented pro bono by Eversheds Sutherland LLP, filed a lawsuit against ICE in January 2020 for noncompliance with our FOIA requests, and the agency began producing records responsive to both requests in July 2020. These documents shed further light on monitoring of social media by DHS components for both investigative and non-investigative purposes.

  • Read the DAS FOIA request here.
  • Read the NARA FOIA request here.
  • Read the Brennan Center’s complaint here.

In total, we obtained about 3,200 pages of documents. The documents that DHS and its components released fall broadly into four categories: social media operational use templates and privacy threshold analyses; other agency directives; agreements with external agencies; and internal emails. We have included additional documents that do not fall into any of these categories in a fifth miscellaneous category.