Trump admin wants to track 14 million US visitors social media history

Enlarge/ Roughly 14 million people per year may have to hand over their social-media "identifiers" before entering the United States, should the Trump administration get its way.TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Want to visit the United States in a non-immigrant capacity? Should the State Department get its way, your application to enter the country may soon hinge on coughing up five years of your online history.

The Trump administration's proposal, published at the Federal Register on Friday, would expand this request, which is currently required to apply for an immigrant visa. Friday's proposal could be enacted after a 60-day public-comment period pending passage by the Office of Management and Budget. Alternatively, the State Department could modify the proposal and start another comment period. But should this current iteration go into effect, an estimated 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants per year would be asked to list any "identifiers" used on a variety of popular social media sites. Those applicants will additionally be required to disclose identifiers they have used during that timespan on sites that aren't on the State Department's default list.

The proposal also expands the State Department's requests from applicants. These individuals would also be asked to supply past phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, and records of international travel.

A New York Times report claims to have the State Department's list of tracked sites, which are not listed in its proposal. American sites include Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Myspace, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine and YouTube. Foreign entries include China's Douban, QQ, Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, and Youku; Russia's social network VK; Belgium's Twoo; and Latvia's

The non-immigrant visa category is sweeping, including everything from students to tourists to "business visitors." As such, the State Department estimates this change will touch upon roughly 14 million applicants. Visitors from 38 nations are generally exempt from requiring such a visa to enter the United States.

The change would broaden an initiative proposed by the Obama administration in 2016, which requests that visa applicants supply any social-media identifiers. This request remains optional in the visa-application process in spite of rights groups decrying the request as "highly invasive" and "ineffective."

Roughly one year ago, current Trump chief of staff John Kelly informed Congress that he wanted the Department of Homeland Security (which he was Secretary of at the time) to demand social-media logins and passwords from potential immigrants coming from seven Muslim-majority nations. The administration has not since spoken out about that specific demand.

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