Last updated: 02:30 PM ET, Wed June 29 2016

US Officials Would Now Like International Tourists' Social Media Account Info

Travel Technology | Gabe Zaldivar | June 29, 2016

US Officials Would Now Like International Tourists' Social Media Account Info

Image via Thinkstock

Visitors coming to the United States may have to face an additional query from border officials. Basically, inquiring minds want to know about your social media channels.

Obviously, the US Customs and Border Protection agency doesn’t want to see how your latest vacation is going on Instagram or your thoughts on the latest “Game of Thrones” episode on Twitter.

It wants to investigate another avenue that might lend insight into various threats present at the country’s borders.

The proposal was offered on the Federal Register with an addendum proposed that would affect the ESTA and Form I-94W.

The proposal states the following question would be entered onto the forms: “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”

As you might notice with the way the question is phrased, visitors will not actually have to answer the question.

The register continues in explaining the possible addition: “It will be an optional data field to request social media identifiers to be used for vetting purposes, as well as applicant contact information.”

If you were wondering why the Department of Homeland Security would want such information, it’s quite simple: “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.”

As Ars Technica notes, those entering the U.S. thanks to the Visa Waiver Program, “won't be forced to disclose their social media handles, but leaving it blank obviously could raise red flags.”

The obvious question would be why such a question would be posed on a form when it’s voluntary, leaving anyone with suspicious social media posts to leave the question completely blank.

Perhaps it’s precisely those visitors that skip the question that DHS officials are particularly interested in finding.

This does, however, leave an avenue for further confusion from International travelers who might not be familiar with social media or its ubiquity.

The question as posed certainly infers that any traveler reading the question does in fact have an “online presence.” This should lead to a wave of obvious questions from befuddled masses not familiar with social media.

But long lines and the need for patience is simply the world we live in no matter what part of the globe we traverse.

DHS hopes it has found another avenue to ensure some measure of safety in what are countless tweets, Instagram photos and Facebook posts.


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