US Customs Asking Visa Travelers for Social Media Accounts Before Entry
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has begun asking foreign travelers for their social media handles prior to being allowed to enter the United States.
This request is voluntary and encompasses any social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter, when applying for visa waivers. Refusal to participate will not result in barring anyone from entering the US.
As part of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), the CBP is focusing on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which allowed travelers to be in the US for up to 90 days for business or personal matters.
The VWP authorizes travelers from 38 countries, including Hungary, Belgium, France, and the UK.
The reason for this new request stems from the activity of ISIS and their sympathizers on social media; specifically Twitter. As part of a pressure initiative , the US government has begun focusing on travelers who may have connections to terrorist organizations.
Information collected will be kept for up to 12 years, accessible to law enforcement on local and federal levels; as well as national security agencies.
Through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the CBP can share private data from social media accounts to any agency “responsible for investigating or prosecuting the violations of, or for enforcing or implementing, a statute, rule, regulation, order or license, or where DHS believes information would assist enforcement of civil or criminal laws.”
Over the summer the CBP floated this concept which was opposed by digital liberties advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Internet Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
In a joint statement, these groups explained that the CBP “program would invade individual privacy and imperil freedom of expression while being ineffective and prohibitively expensive to implement and maintain.”