The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently announced its plans to start collecting social media usernames from immigration and foreign travel applicants. According to the information released by the Federal Register, applicants will be instructed to provide any username they used on a social media application in the last five years.
The information is apparently for “law enforcement and national security risk” assessment. The information collected will be stored for up to 12 years by the government for review, with information being deemed “active” for up to three years after it is first recorded. The changes are slated to take effect in 2020.
Key social media apps will be the focus of the inquiry, possibly including:
The announcement has been decried by some as yet another invasion of immigrant privacy under the Trump Administration. In recent news, Ismail Ajjawi was denied entry into the country when he was scheduled to attend Harvard. He had apparently been following social media accounts that expressed “anti-American” viewpoints, which alerted Customs and Border Protection agents. Although he was eventually allowed to enter the country, the incident raised eyebrows and tempers.
Collecting Your Social Media Information is Not Necessarily New
An executive order from 2017 increased the scrutiny of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) inspections and applications. Social media information has been requested on applications since that order was signed. However, the newly announced update makes providing this information a requirement for many types of applications, such as visas and asylum.
A spokesperson from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has warned the requirement will lead to freedom of speech infringements. People will feel tempted to not list all their social media usernames on their applications. In order to verify the information given is honest or complete, the DHS would need to do its own investigations and research, likely violating individual privacy along the way.
You can learn more about the social media information requirements planned by the DHS by clicking here and viewing a full article from CNN Politics. For more information about your rights as an immigrant in or attempting to enter the country, call (904) 204-3420 and connect with Weldon Law Group, PLLC in Jacksonville. Our immigration attorney – Mr. Ian Weldon – would be honored to use his extensive legal experience to preserve and protect your rights.