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U.S. Government Now Asking Foreign Travelers for Social Media Accounts

U.S. Government Now Asking Foreign Travelers for Social Media Accounts

If you’re a foreign traveler coming into the United States, you may be asked for your social media accounts prior to entering customs. The U.S. Visa Waiver Program allows citizens from 38 select countries to visit the states for 90 days without a visa, but with a catch. In the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a part of the program, social media info is requested as an “optional” field.

First proposed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in June, the form reads, “Please enter information associated with your online presence,” with a drop-down box that allows the applicant to select various providers/platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube followed by their username directly in the box to the right. The CBP says the goal is to potentially identify terrorist threats, “collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections.”

Met with criticism and protest for fear of profiling and discrimination when it was proposed, the government has decided to roll out the field anyways.