PRIVACY

U.S. Customs Is Asking Foreign Visitors For Social Media Handles

The process was implemented right in time for the holidays

PRIVACY
Illustration: Vocativ
Dec 23, 2016 at 12:17 PM ET

Name and passport number aren’t the only information you’ll be asked about if you’re a foreigner wanting to visit the U.S.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is now asking foreign travelers visiting the county under the visa waiver program to provide their social media account handles. “Please enter information associated with your online presence,” reads the form.

Foreigners have to select their social media accounts from a drop down menu which includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Tumblr. Even less popular sites such as Flickr and Google+ are included.

The proposal of asking visitors for their online presence was first introduced in June as an effort to help identify potential terrorists before they enter the country or make threats.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved the proposal on December 19 and implemented the process on Tuesday, according to Politico. The visa waiver program allows citizens of specific countries to visit the U.S. for 90 days without obtaining the visa. Some of the countries include the U.K., Germany, Italy and Japan.

Many advocacy groups believe asking for such information threatens free expression. Groups such as Access Now, which campaigned against the proposal in the summer, said this process is worrisome since the DHS has proposed to share social media account information with other government and law enforcement agencies.

Although the online presence section is marked as “optional,” many people will probably fill out in fear that they’ll be denied entrance to the country if they leave it blank. However, the DHS insists that people will not be denied access if they don’t fill it out.

This new process of collection data comes just a month before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who recently made a call for a registry to track Muslims.