US says travelers will have to turn over social media info


Under new rules proposed by the US State Department, Sri Lankans traveling to the US would have to disclose any social media identities they had used over the past five years.

The move would affect an estimated 14 million travelers from a majority of countries around the world, except for major US allies like Australia, Japan, and the UK, which have visa-free travel agreements.

“Maintaining robust screening standards for visa applicants is a dynamic practice that must adapt to emerging threats,” the US State Department said in a statement last week.

Applicants applying for non-immigrant visas to the US already have to supply certain details like contact information, travel history, names of family members, and previous addresses.

“Collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity,” the State Department said.

The proposal lists about 20 social media platforms that travelers would have to disclose when applying for a visa. Many of them, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are popular in Sri Lanka.

“Consular officers will use this additional information only to vet applicants for potential visa ineligibilities under existing US law,” the U.S. Embassy in Colombo said through a spokesperson on Monday.

They said they would not ask for account passwords, or try to subvert existing privacy protocols.

The Embassy issued nearly 17,000 travel visas to Sri Lankans last year, according to State Department data.

The proposal still needs final approval from the US Office of Management and Budget, following a 60-day public comment period.


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