If you want to come to the Unites States, get ready for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to ask for your social media usernames along with traditional information, like your full legal name and birthday.
A notice in the Federal Register on Wednesday says collecting this information is necessary to help protect the country from people who are potential law enforcement and national security risks. Social media account details will help DHS assess whether foreigners can travel, enter the U.S., or receive immigration-related benefits.
The initial list of social media platforms featured on DHS forms will include Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Myspace, Reddit, Tumbler, Twitter, and YouTube. People filling out the paperwork will be asked about accounts used during the past five years.
DHS says it will not collect passwords.
“DHS currently uses publicly available social media information to support its vetting and adjudication programs, and to supplement other information and tools that DHS trained personnel regularly use in the performance of their duties,” the Federal Register notice said. “The collection of applicants’ social media identifiers and associated platforms will assist DHS by reducing the time needed to validate the attribution of the publicly-available posted information to the applicant and prevent mis-associations.”
The announcement has drawn criticism from civil liberties and constitutional experts who question how effective the collected social media details will be at screening foreigners and what impact it will have on free speech.
The federal government already collects social media information from visa applicants.