Imagine you’re at the airport, having just arrived in the United States. You’re going through customs, and you’re either a terrorist or someone who intends to commit crimes on American soil. If a customs agent asks for your social media information, would you say, “Sure thing! Here’s my Twitter account. You will find all the evidence you need of my terrorist plans there. Enjoy!”
No. You would either lie or decline the question. Because why the hell would terrorists blow their cover by voluntarily handing over incriminating social media information?
Nonetheless, the Department of Homeland Security is moving forward with a plan to request social media identifiers and other online account information from Visa Waiver Program participants. Today, TechFreedom joined a coalition of civil liberties organizations in expressing concerns over the proposal.
In-depth investigation into applicants’ social media presences not only represents an unnecessary delving into their personal lives, but also into the lives of those they interact with online. The information collected through the program would be shared with U.S. intelligence agencies and could be used to expand existing lists and databases, making the proposal little more than a new surveillance program in disguise.
While creating new privacy risks and raising the cost of examining applicants, collecting social media information is unlikely to actually assist in the applicant vetting process. Those who present a threat to the U.S. are unlikely to publicize their intentions online, meaning this program would likely result in nothing more than a flood of irrelevant information.
The letter concludes:
While we understand the security concerns that motivate this proposal, we believe it would irresponsibly shift government resources to a costly and ineffective program while invading the privacy of not just visa-waiver applicants, but also their contacts in the U.S. The price of a business trip or family vacation to the United States should not include a fishing expedition into one’s reading lists, tastes, beliefs, and idiosyncrasies by CBP officers. Given the risk of discriminatory impact on minority communities as well as the privacy concerns set forth above, we urge CBP to withdraw this proposal.