US Visa applicants may have to provide social media history


US President Donald Trump  (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

Soon, immigrant and non-immigrant visa seekers to the United States of America may have to provide their social media information as well as phone numbers used in the past five years.

This is part of US President Donald Trump’s proposal to prevent the entry of individuals who might pose a risk to the nation. This vetting process is expected to affect 710,000 immigrants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants, reports indicate.

The new proposal was published in the Federal Register on Friday and the public has 60 days to comment on the revised procedures.

These new rules might have an adverse effect on freedom of speech. Hina Shamsi, director of ACLU’s National Security Project, pointed out that people will now wonder if what they say online might be misunderstood by government officials.

“We’re also concerned about how the Trump administration defines the vague and over-broad term ‘terrorist activities’ because it is inherently political and can be used to discriminate against immigrants who have done nothing wrong,” Shamsi was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“There is a real risk that social media vetting will unfairly target immigrants and travelers from Muslim-majority countries for discriminatory visa denials, without doing anything to protect national security.”

Interestingly, perusing people’s social media accounts is something government agencies have been doing for a while now. According to Arlington-based web search engine provider Giant Oak, the only thing Tump has done is talk up the practice.

Oak’s chief executive officer Gary Shiffman told Nextgov last year that “the demand and interest in social media hasn’t changed—it’s this understanding that you can exploit the internet, the open source [intelligence]…much more quickly and cheaply than we previously knew.”

Shiffman emphasized that Giant Oak does not take on fake personas to identify a person of interest. “If a known bank robber has a Facebook [profile], almost never do they post on their Facebook [profile] that they robbed a bank, but they might have…a picture of them standing in front of a new car,” he explained. “Through other data sources we might discover that this person also robbed a bank.”