Border Patrol Wants to Access Visitors’ Social Media

August 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Visitors entering the United States may be asked to provide US Customs and Border Protection with their social media account information. This would be a new question added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and I-94W forms.

We’re not sure how we feel about that.

On the one hand, these forms already supply information about citizenship, residency, passport, and contact information. With this, it’s easy enough to get social media information. Just go to your favorite social network, and search for the person’s name.

Patch_of_the_United_States_Border_PatrolAccording to the Office of the Federal Register, a publication that lists proposed and final administrative regulations, this data would be used for “screening alien visitors for potential security risks to national security and determining admissibility to the United States.”

The Department of Homeland Security is asking for this additional question because, “collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide them greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set” for analysts and investigators.

So there’s a safety consideration here, which we can appreciate. Of course, we don’t know how honest and forthright potential “bad actors” will actually be.

The question would read: “Please enter information associated with your online presence–Provider/Platform–social media identifier.”

It is important to note that this request for information will be an optional data field, so it’s not like you have to answer, list every social media network you belong to, or could get in trouble if you failed to list a long forgotten social network you joined but never used.

This revision to the existing form is open for public comment until August 22, 2016. You may share your opinion at the regulations.gov website.

What do you think about this new line on the form? Would you fill it in or leave it blank? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Department of Homeland Security (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

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