Social Media History May Affect US Visa Applications

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The right to privacy when it comes to your social media history has been increasingly under pressure lately. When it was reported that Cambridge Analytica used private data from Facebook users, there was immense public backlash and a push for more privacy and security when it came to your social media data and history. However, the United States administration is now also challenging your right to privacy on social media as it is now actively pushing for a law that allows them access to your social media history when reviewing visa applications.

The State Department believes it is necessary to acquire a visa applicant’s social media history in order to judge the applicant’s character. If the proposal is approved, the Trump Administration will have access to five years’ worth of Facebook and Twitter data. This also includes phone contacts, email addresses, travel history, and relative’s private information. 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.”

This law would seriously affect the 14.7 million individuals who request U.S. visas each year. Not only that, anyone who is not a U.S. citizen nor has 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.”

The Office of Management and Budget will have the final call on the passage of said proposal, but the public is allowed to comment during the 60-day period before passage.

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!

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