The Department of State may soon submit a request to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget that would allow for the collection of up to a five-year history of social media activity from prospective immigrants. Specifically, the document, which has 60 days from submission – March 30 – for public review and comment, will request social media handles used by those individuals. The changes to the document would be specifically applicable to the electronic application process. The revised forms would contain a list of social media websites or services to select from and applicants will need to provide information about their usernames and handles for those sites when filling the forms out.
While the data that would be requested likely seems to be innocuous enough, it is bound to raise some controversy over privacy and the rights of U.S. citizens or those applying to be U.S. citizens. That could be made worse by the fact that some rules about checking electronic devices have reportedly been extended far beyond control at the borders. Namely, some of those intended for that purpose have bizarrely ended up being imposed on U.S. citizens as well. Moreover, there will likely be some opponents to the addition who muse about the effectiveness of such rules. It could be argued that it may be possible for malicious applicants to simply lie and any applicants who may pose a more serious threat are likely to have avoided the use of social media platforms altogether. Proponents are likely to point to the measure as an additional step to check whether applicants are a good fit for America values or may be classifiable as a danger to society.
On the other hand, the proposed request also has a few other changes to the electronic forms that are much more likely to be supported across the board. For example, immigration from areas of the world where female genital mutilation is common will now be required to view specific laws in the U.S. that forbid the practice. It also seeks to make information about medical examination requirements that some individuals will need to undergo more robust and comprehensive. Whether any of this will pass through to become a more standard part of proceedings remains to be seen but its proposal is hardly surprising in an increasingly technology-filled world.