Travelers visiting the U.S. from 38 countries including Taiwan could be forced to give up their smartphones and social media passwords as part of a new “extreme vetting” process, according to Trump administration officials.
The security measure would apply to visitors from a number of countries including Japan, Germany, France and Great Britain that have visa waivers for the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported.
Travelers arriving at U.S. customs could be asked to hand over their devices to officials who will check them for stored contacts, while also requesting social media handles and account passwords to review private information.
The measure has been criticized since visitors with something to hide might delete all their information before hand or purchase a separate burner phone.
Trump administration officials are also considering a second security measure, in which visitors are asked about ideology, with questions about their opinions on the role of women in society, honor killings, and military operations targets.
The goal of revealing phone contacts is to “figure out who you are communicating with. What you can get on the average person’s phone can be invaluable,” a senior Department of Homeland Security official was quoted as saying, according to the WSJ report.
Travelers applying for visas to the U.S. would also be asked further questions about their beliefs and intentions, which could be added work for embassy workers overseas.
“We are aware of the WSJ article. We will keep the public informed about changes affecting travelers to the United States,” said Sonia Urbom, a spokesperson for the American Institute in Taiwan, which represents American interests in the East Asian country, according to the China Post.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to confirm the report and said it would release a statement as soon as it obtained more information on the matter.
In February, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly also received some criticism from human and civil rights groups after he suggested the U.S. would ask visitors for online information and passwords.
Kelly then told a Senate committee that passwords were requested “so we can see what they do on the internet … If they don’t want to give us that information, then they don’t come.”