US to demand five years of your social media, email account info in visa application

The data demand will apply to tourists and potential immigrants.

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The US State Department will now require new visitors to the United States to hand over their social media account names as well as email addresses and phone numbers used over the past five years.

Revised application forms for those seeking potential residency, education, work, or a tourist visa will have to supply the data, which is expected to impact roughly 15 million visa applicants who visit the country each year.

As noted by the Associated Press, the bulk data collection was first proposed in March 2018. The department says the demand will "strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity."

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Unless you are exempt due to diplomatic or official reasons, you will need to supply five years' worth of social media and email account history, as well as past international travel information.

The forms will list the most popular social networking platforms -- likely including Facebook and Twitter, among others -- and will also invite applicants to list any other platforms and accounts not included on the paperwork.

In addition, the new visa requirements now not only ask you if you have personally been involved in terrorism-related activities but your family too.

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A State Department official told The Hill there will be "serious immigration consequences" for those caught lying. This could theoretically include visa withdrawal or refused entry.

Previously, such in-depth demands were only required when risk factors were identified, such as travel to terrorism-linked areas.

"We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens while supporting legitimate travel to the United States," the department told the AP.

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The profiling of applicants to ascertain any risk factors associated with an individual is understandable, but this information needs to be protected, stored properly, and should be deleted if not required.

US customs has previously shown itself as incompetent in this regard. A report published in December revealed that for the past two years, border agents have not been deleting visitor data obtained from electronic device searches. 

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