US to scan travellers' social media for visa waiver

Updated: Dec 29, 2016, 09:50 IST | Agencies

International travellers looking to visit the United States via the visa-waiver program are now being asked to include information on their online presence, according to a report in Politico

Representation pic/Thinkstock
Representation pic/Thinkstock

New York: International travellers looking to visit the United States via the visa-waiver program are now being asked to include information on their online presence, according to a report in Politico. The recently updated Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form, a required component of the visa-waiver application, now includes a section for travellers to provide their user names for various social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

While giving the information is technically optional, the change has some civil rights groups and privacy advocates concerned, reports said.

“There are very few rules about how that information is being collected, maintained, [and] disseminated to other agencies, and there are no guidelines about limiting the government’s use of that information,” Michael W. Macleod-Ball, chief of staff for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office, told Politico.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection argued that the policy is designed to help “identify potential threats.”

While the US has said it won’t deny entry to those who don’t provide social media information, critics expect many travellers will automatically fill in all the blanks in hopes of getting through the customs process as quickly as possible.

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