The U.S government has proposed adding a line to forms filled out by visitors to the United States that would ask them to voluntarily disclose their social media accounts, a step that it said would help in screening for ties to terrorism.
Per Second News gathered in Washington that the U.S Customs and Border Protection, disclosed in a proposal last week in the Federal Register, that the social media information would give it extra investigative tools.
With these moves visitors would be asked passwords to their facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms.
The proposal comes after Congress passed legislation last year to add restrictions to the Visa Waiver Program. The legislation was a response to the November terrorist attacks in Paris, which led to fears that European-born or naturalised citizens with terrorist ties could enter the United States without being properly vetted.
Per Second News also gathered that the U.S Immigration has plans underway to examine the use of social media among applicants for immigration benefits. One of the projects, which began in December and runs through this month, screens the social media accounts of visa applicants, especially the fiance visas, the programme under which one of the San Bernardino attackers entered the United States.
Legislation pending in Congress would require the Department of Homeland Security to collect social media information from foreign visitors. The bills were spurred by the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in December. The couple who carried out the assault had exchanged private messages online discussing their commitment to jihad and martyrdom, law enforcement officials said, but they did not post any public messages about their plans.
Meanwhile, visitors entering the country under the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of some countries to visit up to 90 days without a visa, would not be required to list their social media accounts, and the forms would not ask for passwords. “Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity,” the border agency said, referring to the Department of Homeland Security, its parent organisation.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., who has introduced one of the bills requiring social media information, called the Customs and Border Protection proposal “lame.” “Voluntary disclosure won’t keep anyone safe,” Buchanan said. “If we want to win on the digital battlefield, mandatory screening is required.”
Buchanan’s bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security to review all public records, including Facebook and other forms of social media, before admitting foreign travellers.
- Per Second News