During his first congressional hearing since his Senate confirmation, the newly-appointed DHS chief suggested that, as a means of boosting border security, immigration officials could demand social-media identifiers and the passwords of those wishing to enter America.
"If someone wants to come into our country," he said at a February 7 hearing, "we want to say, for instance, what websites do you visit? Give us your passwords."
As Kelly would have it, if visa applicants refused to provide the information, then they would not be given a visa.
"If they truly want to come to America, they'll cooperate," he said, adding, "If not, next in line."
The DHS chief said that he was looking into extreme vetting, regardless of the current nationwide stay on US President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration.
Last year, the DHS proposed to intensify the screening of participants in the Visa Waiver Program by examining their social media presence. The measure was touted as a way to provide "greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections." Nothing was said, however, about requiring personal passwords for social media accounts.
Kelly's suggestion quickly attracted sharp criticism from civil rights groups, which pointed out that social media profiles often reveal personal information, including a user's sexual orientation or political viewpoints.
"A person's online identifiers are gateways into an enormous amount of their online expression and associations, which can reflect highly sensitive information about that person's opinions, beliefs, identity, and community," human rights activists observed.
The implementation of such a measure would likely prompt other countries to impose similar requirements, and, as a result, Americans would be obligated to reveal their Facebook profile when traveling abroad.