U.S Visa applicants will now reveal their social media lives

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A phone screen displays social media apps

The Trump administration did in 2018 March propose policy changes as part of the U.S government’s expanded ‘extreme vetting’ process for all immigrants and visitors. The New York times would later in June 2019, break the news of the policy starting effect then.

In the new policy, the U.S. State Department requests for visa applicants to hand over information related to their various social media accounts will extend to nearly all applicants, including those traveling to the U.S. for education or business, only exempting applicants seeking diplomatic or official visas, the Associated Press reported.

The application of this administration policy may affect as many as 15 million immigrant and nonimmigrant applicants, according to the Associated Press. Prior to the new policy, an estimated 65,000 were subject to the additional screening process.

“The additional screening requires that foreigners share their past social media usernames, email addresses, phone numbers, and international travel dating back five years. They are also asked to disclose whether they have been deported and whether their family members have ties to terrorist groups,” said the Associated Press.

In a statement last year, Director of the ACLU National Security Project Hina Shamsi, called the move by yet, “yet another ineffective and deeply problematic Trump administration plan.”

“It will infringe on the rights of immigrants and U.S. citizens by chilling freedom of speech and association, particularly because people will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official,” Shamsi said, adding;  “We’re concerned about how the Trump administration defines the vague and overbroad term ‘terrorist activities’ because it is inherently political and can be used to discriminate against immigrants who have done nothing wrong.”

Shamsi also named the move “a dangerous and problematic proposal, which does nothing to protect security concerns but raise significant privacy concerns and First Amendment issues for citizens and immigrants.

The State Department was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that “every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening, to constantly better mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

 

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