The Department of State and Homeland Security want to know all about the online identities of foreigners. Barring diplomatic and official visa applicants, any non-citizens seeking entry into the U.S. are now required to hand over the details of any social media accounts and email addresses they may have used in the last five years.
“We already request certain contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants,” the State Department said in a statement. “We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”
The process was initially reserved for visitors who had connections to more dangerous parts of the world, but now it’s mandatory for most applicants. Critics say that these kinds of measures will scare off some travelers and encourage others to censor their online lives.
“This is a dangerous and problematic proposal, which does nothing to protect security concerns but raises significant privacy concerns and First Amendment issues for citizens and immigrants,” Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said on Sunday. “Research shows that this kind of monitoring has chilling effects, meaning that people are less likely to speak freely and connect with each other in online communities that are now essential to modern life.”