Brennan Center Urges State Department to Abandon the Collection of Social Media and Other Data from Visa Applicants

The Brennan Center, joined by 56 other civil and human rights organizations, today submitted comments to the U.S. Department of State on its plan to collect additional information, such as social media identifiers, telephone numbers, and email addresses used in the past five years from U.S. visa applicants

May 30, 2018

The undersigned organizations write to urge the Department of State to withdraw the agency’s proposed information collection under Public Notices 10260 and 10261. By notices published March 30, 2018, the Department of State proposed to ask visa applicants to provide social media identifiers, telephone numbers, and email addresses used in the past five years, among other information. Proposals by the federal government to use social media to make adverse visa determinations have been consistently opposed by privacy, civil liberties, civil rights, and other civil society groups. And the government’s own studies have not produced evidence that social media screening programs work.

The current proposed revisions will undermine First Amendment rights of speech, expression, and association. The proposal, if implemented, will reveal private information about travelers that is irrelevant to their suitability for entry to the United States, and will expose data about their families, friends and business associates in the U.S. Further, the context in which these policies are being developed – and the methods used to examine what is collected – suggest that they will be implemented in ways that discriminate on the basis of national origin, religion, or ideology. Lastly, the data collection will facilitate the bulk mining and wide-ranging use of information about travelers and U.S. citizens, including for purposes beyond those articulated in the Public Notices, amplifying the concerns above. These drawbacks are in exchange for speculative national security benefits, especially considering the vanishingly small number of vetting failures that have permitted foreign-born persons to commit terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

Sincerely,
 
18MillionRising.org
ACCESS
Access Now
American Friends Service Committee
American Immigration Lawyers Association
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Amnesty International
Arab American Institute
Archivists Roundtable of Metropolitan New York (ART)
Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta
Association of Research Libraries
Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Security, Race and Rights
The Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law
Chhaya Community Development Corporation
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)
Concerned Archivists Alliance
Consumer Action
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Defending Rights & Dissent
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Emgage Action
Free Press
Government Accountability Project
Government Information Watch
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB)
Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored
Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition
MPower Change
Muslim Justice League
Muslim Public Affairs Council
NAACP
NAFSA: Association of International Educators
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF)
National Hispanic Media Coalition
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigration Law Center
National Immigration Project of the NLG
National Network for Arab American Communities
New America's Open Technology Institute
New York Immigration Coalition
NIAC Action
Open MIC (Open Media and Information Companies Initiative)
Patient Privacy Rights
Privacy Times
The Project on Government Oversight
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
United We Dream
Veterans for American Ideals
World Privacy Forum

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