PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The United States government has reportedly started asking foreign travelers to provide their social media accounts upon arrival.
Politico reports that since last week, foreigners coming to the U.S. on the visa waiver program are being presented with an “optional” request to “enter information associated with your online presence.”
The drop-down menu on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization request form includes social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other accounts.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization must be completed by certain foreign travelers who are coming to the U.S. Foreigners coming to America through the visa waiver program are allowed to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.
Politico reports the move is designed in an effort to spot potential terror threats.
The move has been widely criticized from privacy advocacy groups.
“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,” Michael W. Macleod-Ball, chief of staff for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, D.C., office, told Politico. “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.”
A Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman told Politico the government approved the change on Dec. 19 and that the policy is meant to “identify potential threats.”
Nathan White, senior legislative manager of Access Now, told Politico this new policy is a threat to human rights.
“The choice to hand over this information is technically voluntary,” White told Politico. “But the process to enter the U.S. is confusing, and it’s likely that most visitors will fill out the card completely rather than risk additional questions from intimidating, uniformed officers – the same officers who will decide which of your jokes are funny and which ones make you a security risk.”
The policy was originally drafted in June.