Social media

Travelling to the US? Authorities can now ask for Facebook, Twitter handles

State Department says the questionnaire will only be given to ‘a fraction of 1 per cent’ of the millions of visitors

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 June, 2017, 10:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 June, 2017, 11:08pm

Travellers wishing to visit the US can now be asked for their social media handles and email addresses going back five years – a newly installed US government request that has alarmed privacy advocates but which the Trump administration says could weed out people who intend harm.

Citizens of most countries must apply for visas to travel to the US, which are granted by the State Department. This generally involves a visit to a local US embassy or consulate and an in-person interview.

The supplemental questionnaire will only be given to “a fraction of 1 per cent of the 13 or so million people who apply for a visa to visit the United States each year and is meant for applications for which consular officials feel more information is necessary”, said Will Cox, a spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

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Applicants are not being asked for the passwords to these accounts and consular officers will not be going into social media and friending people, Cox said. The questionnaire also asked about employment history, siblings, children and spouses, “current or previous” and “living or deceased”.

The State Department asked for the right to collect the information under an emergency request on May 3, which was granted on May 23 by the Office of Budget and Management. It was also implemented on the same day, but it was not until Thursday that the existence of the new form became widely known.