Collecting social media history is starting to become the norm. While some companies have been in hot waters for doing it without users’ knowledge, the United States administration is actively pushing for a law that allows them to access it for visas.
Trump’s administration is toying with the idea of requiring visa applicants’ social media history. The State Department believes it necessary to judge applicants’ character. If the proposal is approved, the government will have access to five years’ worth of Facebook and Twitter data. If you take into account that 14.7 million individuals request a U.S. visa per year, you can imagine the amount of private information U.S. authorities will have all of a sudden.
We’re talking about phone contacts, email addresses, travel history, relatives’ private info. Until now, officials had permission to ask for such info only if it was “required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting”. Now, everyone who is not a U.S. citizen, nor does it have visa-free travel status, will have to disclose their digital past before stepping in the U.S.
“Maintaining robust screening standards for visa applicants is a dynamic practice that must adapt to emerging threats,” the state department said in a statement. “We already request limited contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants. Collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.”
Who is going to make the final call? The Office of Management and Budget, although the public will have a saying in this, too. In the next two months, people can comment on the proposal, so make sure you speak your mind.
Will this idea bring about an online self-censorship? Or is the administration right in risking freedom of speech to ensure national security? We want to hear your thoughts on the matter – comment below!