The U.S. government last week began asking foreign
visitors to voluntarily provide links to their social media accounts upon
The new question is asked of visitors entering the U. S. via
the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel
in the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. According to Politico,
VWP travelers are given an option to "enter
information associated with your online presence" which prompts a
drop-down menu listing social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram,
LinkedIn and YouTube, and space for visitors to write their account names.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last summer submitted a
proposal to add the question to the VWP application, saying that "collecting
social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide
[the Department of Homeland Security] greater clarity and visibility to
possible nefarious activity and connections."
The proposal drew strong criticism last summer from the
American Civil Liberties Union and The Internet Association, which calls itself
"the voice of the internet economy" and whose members include
Facebook and Twitter.
The Center for Democracy & Technology said the questions
would "invade individual privacy, burden free expression and expose
particular communities to the risk of undue surveillance or ideological
"The price of a business trip or family vacation to the
United States should not include a fishing expedition into one's beliefs,
reading lists, tastes and idiosyncrasies by customs officials--or NSA analysts,"
the Center for Democracy & Technology stated.
Interest in foreign visitors' social media accounts
heightened after it was discovered that one of the shooters in the 2015 attack
in San Bernardino, Calif., had posted pro-jihadist messages on social media.
However, those comments were made under a pseudonym and on a private forum.