Applicants for an American visa must enter social media data

Virtually anyone applying for a visa to enter the United States must now enter their social media accounts, the US Department of Foreign Affairs announced, AP news agency reported Monday.


Virtually anyone applying for a visa to enter the United States must now enter their social media accounts, the US Department of Foreign Affairs announced, AP news agency reported Monday.

The measure was proposed in March last year. In addition to their profiles, people must also provide the e-mail addresses and telephone numbers used in the last five years.

This gives the US government access to information such as shared photos, locations, birth dates and other personal information that is shared publicly.

"We always request certain information," the ministry writes in a statement. "We continue to look at ways to improve our access policies, to ensure the safety of US citizens and to support legitimate travel."

Some diplomats and civil servants do not have to meet the new requirements, although it is not known to whom exactly the exemption applies. The measure is expected to affect 15 million people annually traveling to the US with no intention of immigrating.

Safety risk

In 2017, the Trump government already introduced a temporary policy on visa applications. People who, according to the US, posed a security risk were asked about their social media accounts.

The American civil rights organization ACLU calls the new measure "dangerous and problematic". According to the organization it has nothing to do with security, it leads to more questions about privacy.

"People may feel less free to speak freely and get in touch with each other through online groups," ACLU said.

ESTA applications

The measure specifically concerns visa applications. Dutch people who submit a so-called ESTA application for a trip to the US have been asked for social media data in the form for some time. However, providing that information is optional.

Adding this type of data facilitates the assessment of an ESTA application, according to the US. People who do not enter anything are not refused for that reason.

ref: nunl