U.S. demanding visa applicants' social media details
That Facebook rant about Trump may come back to haunt you should you decide to apply for a visa to the States.
Whether you or your children aim to travel to the United States for business or education, your social media details could be surrendered to the U.S. State Department. You won’t be notified, but your past posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media may be combed through by authorities and you could be denied entry as a result.
WHY, AND WHY NOW?
This is an idea the U.S. toyed with in the early days of Trump’s presidency, back when the ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries was imposed. Now they’re going forward with it. The new visa application form has a section listing various social media platforms and asking people to fill in the names of any accounts held on those platforms over the past five years.
The official reason is that this information can confirm applicants’ identities, and ID online extremism. But intelligence agencies can already access most of this info and have large data sets about you, so in reality, the new legislation may be more about speeding up border agencies’ processing and facilitating identification of people they’d rather not have in the U.S.
Regardless of the logic behind it, this puts a damper on free speech, and places too much control of individuals’ personal information in the hands of authorities.
OBJECTIVE POWER BASED ON SUBJECTIVE OPINIONS
The truly damaging part of all this is that crossing a border is considered a privilege, meaning there’s now even more power in the hands of border guards themselves, who could react depending on their mood that day, their feelings around their own political affiliations, something you posted on Facebook that was meant to be a joke.
This kind of data can easily be taken out of context and used to make a decision that could have profound personal or business repercussions on individuals. There's no room for appeal, so the concerns are very real.
THINK BEFORE YOU POST
Unfortunately, there continues to be no reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to social media.
This has always been the case, but now more than ever it’s a good idea to think before you post that controversial opinion, that sensitive information, or that private comment. Don’t share data using an online tool that you wouldn’t want to be public.
Freedom of speech laws exist only to prevent criminal prosecution by the state, not to prevent states or businesses from using material you post to make discriminatory decisions.
So if you’re planning to apply for a visa, it couldn’t hurt to go through your social media accounts and delete old posts, enhance your privacy settings, and remove anything overly political. Of course, you have the right to post what you want, but protecting yourself in this case is about prevention.