A picture of 2 individuals crossing the american mexico border

Let's once again talk about artificial intelligence. This time, a controversial tool named "Giant Oak Search Technology" (GOST), developed by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has been employed to scrutinize visa applicants' social media posts.

The AI-driven approach that detects derogatory content has sparked a debate over privacy concerns and ethical considerations, turning into the main subject of our weekly article.

First, Get To Know GOST's Origin

The origin of GOST can be traced back to a 2016 pilot program, the HSI PATRIOT Social Media Pilot Program, with a mission to identify potential visa abusers from countries of concern, but since 2014, GOST has been employed by immigration services and various government agencies – as revealed by a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by ACLU – American Civil Liberties Union, an American nonprofit human rights organization – and ACLU of Northern California.

Also, public procurement records show that ICE has paid Giant Oak Inc. over $ 10 million since 2017.

Now, Take A Deeper Look Into GOST

The US Giant Oak Search Technology operates by analyzing a visa applicant's social media behavior and assigning a score ranging from one to 100 based on the relevance of their posts to a specific mission.

It can identify:

  • applicant's name;
  • address;
  • email; and
  • nationality.

Upon selection, analysts review an individual's social media images and approve or disapprove them. Furthermore, the applicant's social graph can be investigated, potentially revealing associations with others.

According to the GOST website, the tool sources its information from the open and deep web. It uses search parameters centered on behavioral patterns rather than identity labels, enabling a more nuanced analysis of the individual's online behavior.

Despite the apparent advantages, the use of GOST has also raised substantial questions about its legitimacy. They were brought to life by the ACLU.

Finally, Read ACLU's Concerns

Patrick Toomey, Deputy Director of the ACLU's National Security Project, expressed concern about the lack of accountability and transparency in the government's use of algorithms to scan social media posts.

There is more behind the scenes, but for now you know about the tool and about the debate over privacy concerns and ethical considerations – that continues. You may also have noticed, once again, it is still essential that Governments work harder to discover how to strike a balance between technological advancements and respect for individual privacy.