US now ask social networking data for foreign tourists


Measure has been criticized by several civil rights protection groups, which predict that Arab and Muslim communities will be harmed with this new policy.

US visitors through a visa-free program are receiving requests from the US Department of Homeland Security for information about their accounts on social networks, a move that has come under criticism from civil rights groups for their potential privacy attack .

The department’s Customs and Border Protection unit has asked for written comments this year in its proposal that it would add to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and a form called I-94W the following statement: “Please enter associated information With its online presence – Provider / Platform – Social Network Identifier “, which tourists can fill in as an option.

The agency said in June this year that collecting data from social networks would help provide additional tools to “improve the existing investigative process and provide the Security Department with more clarity and visibility for possible abominable activities and connections.” Although the provision of social networking information is listed as optional, critics of the US initiative claim that failure to populate such data by a tourist may also be interpreted as requiring further review by the authorities.

The current ESTA form asks for information in the “Provider / Platform”, and by username, nickname or other identifier associated with the profile on a social network.

The new field came into force this week, according to the political website Politico, which cites an anonymous source within the government.

The visa-free program allows a large part of the residents of the participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or work with a stay of up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa, provided they meet certain conditions.

Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have criticized the Security Department’s proposal that people posing a threat to the US are unlikely to provide online identifiers that could raise questions about their ability to enter In the USA. The groups also warned that the measure is most likely to affect people in the Arab and Muslim communities. 

The Security Department’s move comes amid concerns the administration of newly elected Donald Trump will increase his analysis of US visitors with a focus on Muslims.

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