Extreme vetting is here. Your digital life is now up for scrutiny if you’re trying to get a visa to the U.S. with the Trump administrations’ new questionnaire. Visa applicants must now supply their social media account handles and fifteen years of biographical information. There were rumblings about this step back in January, but they were largely drowned out by panic and protests over Trump’s travel ban that affected visa and green card holders from six Muslim-majority countries.
In March, reports surfaced that U.S. airport security agents were going through travelers’ phones and laptops. Business Insider reported on a new document dispensed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on their policies regarding the search of electronic devices for “evidence of a crime, contraband or other prohibited or restricted items or information.” That can mean a quick once-over at the airport, or the detention of phones and laptops “for further examination, which may include copying.” The tearsheet describes in detail how detained devices can be picked up at a later date by the owner, or “if it is impractical for you to pick up the device, CBP can make arrangements to ship the device to you at our expense.”
Now it appears that the Trump Administration wants a further head start on perusing the digital lives of those entering the U.S. While the new questionnaire isn’t as obviously invasive as a customs agent rifling through your vacation photos and text messages, it does give authorities an opportunity to dig deeper than they have before. Privacy concerns aside, Reuters notes that detractors are worried the sudden uptick in information volume per application could lead to long delays.
And good luck remembering every social media account you’ve had in the past five years, all your email addresses, and phone numbers in that span of time, along with your complete employment and travel history in over a decade. Reuters notes that experts who have looked at the administration’s new guidelines feel the measure is more likely to catch honest mistakes than hardened terrorists. Stalking yourself online to gather up all your old logins for long-forgotten sites like Livejournal, Formspring, and Klout is a little trickier than surfing the web to figure out who your ex is dating now. That’s extreme vetting, indeed.