Planning a trip to the US in the near future? Don’t be surprised if you get asked to provide details of your social media accounts.
Border officials in the US started asking foreign travellers to provide information on their Facebook, Twitter, and other accounts on Tuesday, according to Politico.
Travellers arriving into the US on the visa waiver programme, which enables people to travel to the US for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa, are now being given the “option” to “enter information associated with your online presence,” a US government official told Politico on Thursday.
The move is designed to help the Department of Homeland Security to vet people and spot potential terrorists that are trying to enter the country, but privacy campaigners have attacked the idea ever since it was proposed in June.
When travellers are filling out their Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), a drop down menu now reportedly gives travellers the option to provide their account names for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+.
The change to the online form was reportedly approved by the US government’s Customs and Border Protection on December 19. A spokeswoman told Politico on Thursday that the new policy is meant to “identify potential threats.”
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Centre for Democracy and Technology, told the BBC: “It’s very hard to see travellers not filling out this item – even though it’s optional – as they may fear not getting entry into the country.”
The Department of Homeland Security has previously stated that it would prevent people from entering the US if they refused to share details of their social media accounts, Politico reports.
The US government issues around 10 million visas a year and had 77.5 million foreign visitors in 2015, according to The Guardian.