If you’re planning to take a trip to the United States anytime soon then you might now be asked to provide your social media information on arriving in the country. You might have to provide usernames for your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube among others. This move from the government is aimed at spotting potential terrorist activities and keeping a lid on the same.
Applicable only for select foreigners traveling under the visa waiver program, this new category now instructs them to dispense info about their social presence on the interwebs. The travelers need to first select one of the social networks from a drop-down menu and then fill in the corresponding username in the textbox next to them. It is optional to provide this info but has been added to keep a strict check on the security of their country.
The addition of this social media category to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form was initially requested by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in June earlier this year. The proposal was faced immense criticism from the masses as well as the Internet Association, who argued that this draft policy would threaten the free speech and add to the security risk for foreigners. The proposal has reportedly been passed by the Department of Homeland Security on December 19.
It would lead to less of them deciding to travel to the States due to fear of being threatened and their data unnecessarily exploited to extort information out of them. Talking about the launch of this category, Michael W. Macleod-Ball, chief of staff for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office, says,
There are very few rules about how that information is being collected, maintained [and] disseminated to other agencies, and there are no guidelines about limiting the government’s use of that information. While the government certainly has a right to collect some information… it would be nice if they would focus on the privacy concerns some advocacy groups have long expressed.
Though the collection of social networking information from visitors to the country might have its pros and cons but making this category does come as a relief to those who’re uncomfortable in entrusting their personal and private data to the higher (and unknown) institutions of the States. The consumer advocates are also arguing and are right about the fact that other cities, states and countries might follow pursuit to U.S and try to invade user privacy to protect potential threats.