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U.S. Customs and Border Protection Wants Your Facebook Details

The US Department of Homeland Security has proposed adding questions about a traveler’s social media presence to visa waiver applications.

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency is officially serving notice of its intention to start asking travelers entering the country under the Visa Waiver Program to list details about their social media presence in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application process. According to the agency, which falls under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the details about a traveler’s online identity will help authorities to vet visitors from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program as well as providing a useful secondary means of contact.

“Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case,” the agency stated in documents seeking public comment on the proposal to alter the application process. The DHS has already approved the additional social media questions on the ESTA and CBP Form I-94W (arrival and Departure) forms, but the agency is required to open the proposal to public comment for a minimum of 60 days before implementing the new policy. The DHS formally gave that 60-day notice on June 23.

The proposed new line on the electronic visa waiver application will ask travelers to “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.” If the plan moves forward, the new question will be optional, but the proposal already has privacy advocates up in arms.

“It’s very hard to see travelers not filling out this item, even though it’s optional, as they may fear not getting entry into the country,” Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington, DC-based internet policy think tank, told BBC News. “Democracy in general requires having spaces free from government scrutiny and increasingly social life happens online. We would have a poor society if people were chilled from participating in social activity online so I really hope they rethink this.”

The period for public comment ends on August 22.

[Photo: Department of Homeland Security]

Comments are Closed.
Centurion July 4, 2016

Can you imagine? " Hi- I am a bad guy and here is my real social media account information not the fake one I set up." We created another gov agency called DHS to protect us and they come up with this great idea? We need better ideas immediately.

Bretteee July 3, 2016

Good idea. there is a war going on.

bobdowne July 3, 2016

"social life happens online". that's a sad statement of where society is going or already is.