A new rule published by the Department of Homeland Security will allow all immigration files to include "social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results" starting on Oct. 18. The new policy applies to both green card applicants and naturalized citizens, aka immigrants who have already become American citizens.

It’s unclear how broadly officials will define online “search results,” although legal experts are already concerned about this unprecedented move toward sweeping surveillance.

"There's a growing trend at the Department of Homeland Security to be snooping on the social media of immigrants and foreigners and we think it's an invasion of privacy and deters freedom of speech," Adam Schwartz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Buzzfeed. This rule applies regardless of the immigrant's background. The Office of Inspector General published a report in February showing the DHS pilot program still didn’t have any way to measure whether this online surveillance was effective at improving national security.

Buzzfeed reported the Trump administration continues to push authorities to use social media data as part of the immigration process, despite official reports warning there is no evidence this data is a reliable way to judge potential security threats. Facebook stalking may not be a great way to determine if someone is involved in terrorist activities. But it does reveal a lot about someone’s values and beliefs.

Such is the case with Brian Patrick Byrne, a gay writer from a rural farming town in Ireland, who moved to New York as a student to try his hand at the classic “American dream.” He got married to his longtime American boyfriend at City Hall this year and applied for a green card. However, after hearing about the new DHS policy, he’s nervous about his professional future in the Big Apple.

“Knowing that the U.S. government might be recording what I post, and might try to use that against me one day is something I have definitely dwelled on,” Byrne told International Business Times. “As a journalist who has been publicly critical of the present administration, it also makes me think harder about sharing any opinion I would otherwise consider sharing online.” Byrne also noted that as a gay white man, any discrimination and fear he faces pales in comparison to what Muslim immigrants must now feel.

Many security experts do not consider immigrants, regardless of religious affiliation, to be a greater threat to national security than extremists who were born in the U.S. "The terrorist threat in the United States is almost entirely homegrown,” Albert Ford, a program associate with the International Security and Fellows programs at New America, told Politifact.

This kind of surveillance could be seen as hindering immigrants' constitutional right to free speech. Although there's no evidence this type of information has been used so far to deter immigrants with controversial opinions, University of Denver law professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández told Buzzfeed he worries the move could lend itself to a sort of "idealogical purity test." And immigrants won't the only Americans impacted by the new policy. 

The DHS announcement also says existing immigrant records can be updated with any “publically available information obtained from the internet” or “commercial data providers,” as well as “information obtained and disclosed pursuant to information sharing agreements,” which basically means data from companies like Google and internet service providers. Anyone who communicates with an immigrant, even native-born American citizens, could theoretically find their interactions swept up in the pile of collected data.