Industry News

US visitors asked for social media identifiers at border

After ECJ ruled that the UK acted illegally in imposing a law obliging the collection of communication data from all citizens, the US is setting itself up for a dispute over invasion of people’s privacy. The Department of Homeland Security’s controversial proposal that certain visitors entering the country under a non-immigrant visa waiver program provide their social media identifiers has just been approved.

“Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case,” writes the Office of the Federal Register.

The request was initially made by the US Customer and Border Protection. Although this requirement is not compulsory, civil rights groups have complained that it invades privacy and could cast suspicion on visitors who simply refuse to fill in the information. In light of recent global events, human rights and civil liberties groups are also concerned that visitors from the Arab and Muslim communities might be prone to more thorough surveillance.

“This program would invade individual privacy and imperil freedom of expression while being ineffective and prohibitively expensive to implement and maintain,” American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy & Technology and Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in a coalition letter opposing the proposal. “A person’s online identifiers are gateways into an enormous amount of their online expression and associations, which can reflect highly sensitive information about that person’s opinions, beliefs, identity, and community.”

About the author

Luana PASCU

From a young age, Luana knew she wanted to become a writer. After having addressed topics such as NFC, startups, and tech innovation, she has now shifted focus to internet security, with a keen interest in smart homes and IoT threats. Luana is a supporter of women in tech and has a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, and startup culture.

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  • Not only is this a (huge) privacy issue, but it could also introduce the impossibility of having to prove a negative for those of us with no Facebook page. "Of course you have one, sir, and you are not leaving here until you give us the URL."

  • Wow what has the world come to? I stopped using my Facebook awhile ago because I shut down my site and have no interest in Social Media in general and no longer any need for it. I would hate to have the border demand Social Media credentials from me. They already ruined my love life.. (don't ask .. I just really hate the border now).

  • Since the tragic event of 9-11 where many people lost their lives majority of governments stepped up to the plate to protect their citizens from potential threat. The reality is that regardless of what steps are being introduced there will always be those who support and those who oppose actions taken by government. Too often criticism gets the best of us but with that being said, governments should be mindful of what is the correct data to collect and what is the wrong data to collect. I look at the people I invite into my house….and I suppose it is no difference when you look at border control…. If one of my neighbours had a bad experience with a fellow neighbour would I invite that neighbour into my house? Probably not….however unless I probed some more about the incident and did my own fact finding "intelligence gathering" then I am able to make an informed decision whether or not I should invite the "bad" neighbour into my house. The question however, is how far do I take my fact finding? Do I break into the "bad" neighbours house and go through his garbage or do I look at his facebook what others have to say about them? There is a line to be drawn in the sand but the hardest part is where??? At the end of the day, if you have nothing to hide and you are a good person then what is the problem? There is that old saying…..the truth will set you free..
    Be truthful in life and you should have no issues. Social media has become the location where most individuals hang out their dirty laundry and trash people and yes I do agree that there are those who actually understand the use of social media and its application.
    Like most people form opinions about you so will institutions and governments…..everything changes every day and change cannot be stopped. To address the issue at hand whether you should be allowed into a country based on your digital footprint? The elected governments were put their by the people in most cases….and they will never be able to please every single person….. We complain but life goes on…as long as democracy wins I am in support of it….