Despite being a bad idea for many reasons, the State Department is reportedly going ahead with a plan to collect the social-media information of some visa applicants deemed to be high-risk. According to Reuters, State is planning to make social-media screening a criteria for about 65,000 visa applicants “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”
Among the more stringent requirements are “[s]ocial media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years,” and phone numbers and email addresses used during the same time period. One important detail of this proposal is that the State Department would only request usernames, not passwords and the unhindered access that comes with. “Consular officers,” the proposal states, “will not request user passwords and will not attempt to subvert any privacy controls the applicants may have implemented on social media platforms.” Your locked Instagram profile full of selfies with ISIS is safe for now.
The new proposal would only affect 0.5 percent of the applicant pool, and doesn’t target any particular countries of origin (in theory), but requiring five years of social-media history leaves a lot of room for innocent mistakes. Do you remember every social-media platform you’ve signed up for in the last five years? That’s a tough list to recall for anyone who uses the web regularly. The program also requires a lot more man hours for something that often fails to yield any useful information.