You might be used to tailoring your social media account so it looks good for potential employers, but now you might have to be mindful of how it looks for a visa application — if you want to come to the US, that is. According to a new state department policy that began Friday, visa applicants to the US must now submit information about any social media accounts they have used in the past five years. This would allow the government to look at your photos, locations, birthday, and other personal data.
In a statement, the State Department said, “We already request certain contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants. We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”
Back in 2017, the Homeland Security Department enacted a regulation wherein the social media use of all immigrants was surveilled. This new measure seems to be an evolution of that initial policy. And of course, there is already some backlash.
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said, “This is a dangerous and problematic proposal, which does nothing to protect security concerns but raises significant privacy concerns and First Amendment issues for citizens and immigrants. Research shows that this kind of monitoring has chilling effects, meaning that people are less likely to speak freely and connect with each other in online communities that are now essential to modern life.”
She also added that the government has not yet explained how it would use this information, or provide data that shows the effectiveness of social media in identifying security threats.