US demands social media details from visa applicants

US visa

The US government has introduced policies for visa applicants which require them to hand over all of their social media details for inspection, as well as other personal information, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The change represents a massive increase in the scope of background checks designed to identify potential terrorists trying to gain entry to the US.

Individuals applying for visas will now be required to submit the usernames (but not passwords) for any social media accounts they operate, including volunteering the information for any social media services which are not specifically included on the list.

In addition, applicants will be forced to hand over any email addresses and phone numbers they have used in the past five years.

These extreme requirements were previously only imposed on individuals who were deemed to present an increased risk, such as those who had visited terrorist-controlled regions, but are now being rolled out to a vastly increased number of people.

The policy is set to affect an estimated 15 million visa applicants per year, including those who are travelling for business or educational purposes as well as immigrants. The only exemptions from these requirements are specific types of official and diplomatic visas.

The new policy is part of an executive order - titled 'Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States' - issued by President Trump back in 2017, which the State Department announced it would implement last year. However, the policy actually predates Trump - it was first proposed by the Department of Homeland Security in June 2016, prior to his election.

Privacy campaigners have objected to the new rules, with the American Civil Liberties Union questioning whether it is "effective or fair". Security experts have also raised the possibility that foreign intelligence services may be exploring ways to abuse the requirements.

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.