Online Data Monitoring of Visa Applicantsby Opinion Express July 31, 2018 0 comments
Personal data monitoring of Visa applicants by U.S. government is on track to strengthen national security.
The US policy of gaining access to and monitoring personal data of individuals, especially those visiting the country, to strengthen its national security apparatus appears to be on course. After US President Donald Trump’s decision on the travel ban and extreme vetting procedures for citizens of mainly predominantly Muslim countries, now comes news that immigration checks for foreign travellers to the United States will include new visa norms seeking carte blanche access to putative the visitors’ social media accounts and online profiles. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will be monitored for support to for violent campaigns, terrorist links and presumably anti-America rants to prevent and/or restrict the entry of individuals who officials assess may pose a threat to US security and its citizens. The new rules also give officials the authority to seize electronic devices, mobile phones, and laptops as the case may be. Incidentally, the US State Department already has access to visitors’ phone numbers and email addresses which they can obtain anytime they feel it is required for security reasons.
Certainly, the idea of screening online profiles of visa applicants isn’t new: In 2016, the then Obama Administration had called for officials to screen the social media accounts of a select few visitors. The Trump Administration then followed up on this move and instructed officials to request information from visitors only when “such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting”. But the present move is much broader in its scope as it cracks a whip on almost all visitors entering the US. The application of the rules will now be arbitrary and could be applicable to anyone. They would most likely impact the 710,000 immigration applications and 14 million tourist visa applications the US receives annually. While the new rules could have the effect of cracking down on hate-speech content, not much should be expected by way of results in terms of its efficacy in curbing terrorist activities. It is highly unlikely that anyone planning a terror incident or spreading a radical ideology would go around making public pronouncements about his/her intent. But because the spread of terrorism is intricately linked to hate speech and extremist ideologies, there is a logic to that extent in this latest move vis-a-vis potential visitors Stateside. It would be interesting, however, if the same logic would be extended domestically in the US and its own citizens’ online profiles were monitored to the same extent as proposed for aliens to curb homegrown radicalism, mass shootings and race-related violence.
Courtesy: The Pioneer