U.S. Department of State Demanding Social Media Information From Non-Citizens
On June 4, 2019, the U.S. Department of State announced that it would be requesting information from non-citizens’ social media accounts. The Department of State updated its immigrant visa (“IV”) and nonimmigrant visa (“NIV”) application forms requesting additional information, including “social media identifiers.”, which will apply to most U.S. visa applicants.
The official State Department announcement was made on May 31, 2019. The update, initially announced last year in the Federal Register stems from President Trump’s March 6, 2017, “Memorandum on Implementing Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and other Immigration Benefits,” and also from Section 5 of Executive Order 13780 regarding implementing standardized screening standards for visa applications. The State Department claims that national security is its top priority when deciding on visa applications, and “every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening.” The State Department further stated that “collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen [its] process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.”
Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social media networks contain "handles" in which is used to identify a unique social media profile. Facebook and social media screening is a common practice conducted commonly by the government, and for employment screening. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are common targets of profiles due to the lack of privacy in which employers, companies or the government can monitor your behavior. It is commonly used to prevent disasters from happening and utilizing social media monitoring tools, where algorithms identify certain behaviors that trigger companies to check Facebook or Instagram profiles and handles.
The exact impact of this policy is to be determined. The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) has commented that the added requirement “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.” What is certain is that visa applicants could expect more scrutiny when it comes to what is on their social media accounts.