U.S. wants travellers to disclose social media passwords on visa application
Wed 8 Feb 2017
U.S. Homeland Security is considering demanding foreign visa applicants for their personal social media account details as part of an extreme screening process.
According to reports, the newly-appointed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a committee hearing that the department was looking into ‘enhanced or additional’ background checks. ‘We may want to get on their social media, with passwords,’ he said.
Under the new proposals, the former Marine Corps general explained that those wishing to enter the country would have to provide U.S. embassies with their login details for sites including Facebook and Twitter.
In light of the controversial Trump travel ban, Kelly noted that the consideration would specifically apply to visitors from the seven mainly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen), which have very weak background checks of their own.
‘It’s very hard to truly vet these people in these countries… But if they come in, we want to say, what websites do they visit, and give us your passwords. So we can see what they do on the internet. If they don’t want to cooperate, then they don’t come in,’ he continued.
The immigration and refugee ban has since been suspended by a U.S. judge, backed by the Court of Appeals.
Last year, Homeland Security proposed advanced measures to screen participants in the Visa Waiver Program through assessment of their social media activity. The proposal was suggested as a means of providing more clarity and visibility to ‘possible nefarious activity and connections.’ No reference, however, was made to demanding personal passwords for social media accounts.
The introduction of such a ruling would likely inspire other nations to implement similar requirements.
Thailand has already updated its visa application procedure and since April 2016 has asked travellers to provide details of social media accounts, banking credentials and information on the places they are likely to visit during their stay.
While handing over social media data in Thailand is optional, the addition has been criticised for failing to indicate that the fields are not mandatory.