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Visitors To The US May Soon Have To Give Up Their Social Media Accounts

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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A coalition of 28 different organizations Monday urged authorities to drop a planned policy requiring people entering the U.S. to give up social media data.

Under the proposed modification of existing law, a line will be added to customs paperwork requesting personal social media information. The human rights and civil liberties groups stress significant concerns over authorities insisting that tourists and immigrants reveal their “online presence.”

While it is “an optional data field to request social media identifiers to be used for vetting purposes,” according to the U.S. Federal Register, the coalition expressed confidence in its letter that “this program would invade individual privacy and imperil freedom of expression.” Omitting that information could cause U.S. authorities to become suspicious, whether rightfully so or not.

The original policy called “Agency Information Collection Activities: Arrival and Departure Record and Electronic System for Travel Authorization” was introduced by the federal government in June and is to be implemented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

But the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed addition asks for online information like Twitter and Facebook details because “collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity.” The agency asserts that visitors coming to the country under the Visa Waiver Program will not be forced to disclose their social media accounts, according to Ars Technica. (RELATED: Twitter Claims To Have Shut Down 235,000 Accounts Connected To Terrorism In Past 6 Months)

The coalition contends that the “DHS collection of online identity information is an intelligence surveillance program clothed as a customs administration mechanism” and is just another maneuver by the federal government to increase surveillance and grab more personally identifiable information.

The coalition is led by the Center for Democracy & Technology encompassing a variety of organizations, including, Committee to Protect Journalists, The Constitution Project, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and TechFreedom.

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