Privacy advocates are up in arms following revelations that the Department of Homeland Security is considering accessing the social media profiles of all individuals asking to enter the US, it has been reported.
The DHS chief, John Kelly, recently said that the department was exploring ways in which it could ask all individuals from the majority Muslim countries applying for Visas to provide their social media accounts’ passwords as part of the process.
‘Right now, we are still thinking about this proposal and how it will help us carefully assess and detect individuals who pose threats to our national security,’ he added.
Mr Kelly was speaking at a Congressional hearing where he was asked to outline the things that his department is doing to protect Americans.
Observers are pointing out that the recent development comes at a time when the authorities in the US have been showing concerted efforts at abusing the privacy rights of Visa applicants in the name of carrying out background checks.
Towards the end of last year, authorities indicated that they were asking immigrants to provide their social media details as part of the process of applying for a Visa waiver in the country. Individuals were required to provide their login details to their social media accounts, thus in effect, giving up their online lives to authorities.
According to Robert McCaw of the Council of American-Islamic relations, the recent move by the government violates the privacy rights of individuals in several ways.
‘It is not fair for the government to force people to give up their digital privacy as part of the price the people have to pay to get to the US.’ he added.
Other critics have pointed out the risks that are associated with the recent move.
Of great concern to observers is the extent to which the government can successfully keep the database containing millions of login details of Visa immigrants.
‘In the past, government departments have clearly demonstrated that they are not able to keep their databases from hackers,’ says Christopher Doe, a security expert.
It is likely that hackers will find it easy to access the database that the DHS attempts to keep, thus exposing millions of users to cyber security threats, it has been argued.
Also, many people are of the opinion that the proposal by the DHS will amount to a situation in which the government will be monitoring the activities of its citizens who are related to the Visa applicants.