Legislation, Privacy

Coalition opposes effort to collect social media data of visa applicants

August 23, 2016

A coalition of privacy and civil liberties groups have opposed a proposal by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would collect information about the social media presence and online activities of visa-waiver program visitors to the U.S.

The program would request usernames and “social media identifiers” of visa-waiver of applicants. The groups wrote in a letter to DHS that the program “would invade individual privacy and imperil freedom of expression while being ineffective and prohibitively expensive to implement and maintain.” The coalition includes the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy & Technology, Access Now, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Restore The Fourth, TechFreedom, and Committee to Protect Journalists.

Calls to collect social media data have increased following reports that Tashfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino shooters, supported jihad on social media networks before applying for a U.S. visa.  However, the groups argue that a program to monitor the social media activities of visa-waiver applicants would be “ineffective and prohibitively expensive.” 
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