Visitors on US visas could be asked for social media information

A proposal has been made by the federal government to add a line to the forms filled out by those visiting the US where they can volunteer information about their social media accounts in order to verify their identity for security reasons.

Overseas visitors who enter the US via the Visa Waiver Program, which enables the citizens of certain countries to be able to visit for up to 90 days without the need for a US visa, will not be asked to put down their social media accounts, and nor will passwords be asked for on forms. However, social media information could offer additional investigative tools for security purposes, according to Customs and Border Protection, which revealed the proposal in the Federal Register last week.

The border agency says that collecting data from social media accounts would only enhance the current investigative process and offer the Department of Homeland Security greater visibility and clarity. The proposal follows the adding of restrictions to the existing Visa Waiver Program last year with new legislation passed by Congress following security concerns. Legislation currently pending in Congress would enable social media information to be collected from foreign visitors by the Department of Homeland Security.

The bill, from Florida Republican Representative Vern Buchanan, would allow all forms of public records, including social media sites such as Facebook, to be reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security prior to the admission of overseas travelers. The Department does not currently consistently review social media accounts for immigration or visas.