US Customs now asks select foreign visitors to share social media profiles
January 3, 2017
In an effort to flag potential terrorists who express radical views on social media, the U.S. government has begun asking some foreign travelers to provide their Facebook, Twitter and other accounts before entering the country.
The new initiative started in late December, according to Politico, despite opposition from the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and privacy advocates. The new program was pushed by the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama, and became official policy on Dec. 19.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said the program is intended to identify potential threats, but noted that participation is optional. Foreign travelers who decline to share their social media accounts will not be denied entry into the country.
The question has been added to the Electronic System for Travel authorization, which must be filled out by persons visiting America through the visa-waiver program. The program applies to 38 countries, allowing citizens to stay for up to 90 days without a visa.
The Obama administration began requesting social media profiles despite opposition from the Internet Association, which represents a number of high-profile tech companies including Facebook and Google, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union.
In the ongoing fight for security vs. privacy, governments around the world have increasingly focused on people’s online identities to gauge potential threats.