Gone are the days when all you needed to get into a country was either their passport or visa or any other of such documentation as the United States of America has now found a way to kick their game up a notch when it comes to the security practices on their borders. In a new report that was just made available to the public, the US could now be asking to see any and all of your social media accounts before they let you into their country. This new procedure is not something that is in debate or just in the experimental stage but has kicked off full time already, given that it has been confirmed by a spokesperson for the office of the Customs and Border Protection agency.
This is not just an out of the water measure as it has been expected for months. On launch, many advocates for privacy have slammed this move but like much more before it, there would be nothing their fights would be able to do in the end. Anyone who knows the US very well would have known by now that they take the security of their country and its citizens very importantly, and the action of a few pressure groups would not make it release its grip on what it feels is a goldmine to stopping potential attacks and curbing high-level targets before they can get in and do any major or minor harm. In any case, here, harm is still harm, and the impact cannot be justified on just how much people got affected.
The program is a pretty new one and is not in use generally in many parts of the world so the reason for people being skeptical and all apprehensive about it is totally understood. However, with the proper knowledge of what it is about, whom it has been set for and how the whole thing works, it could be easier to come to terms with it and accept this as a laudable option for security improvement on the part of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
WHOSE INFO DOES THE AGENCY NEED?
CBP is not looking to look at the social media accounts of everyone traveling into the country but only that of those that seek entrance under the canopy of the Visa Waiver program. This means that these people are eligible to travel into and within the country for 90 days, a timeframe when the requirement of an actual visa is not compulsory for their business or pleasure reasons for visiting. They have made this request for social media accounts an integrated field in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a form which travelers have to fill if they hope to get into the states without the use of a visa. Since they have made the visa waiver option available to some travelers from 38 different countries in the world, this is a new method to assess the levels of security risk a traveler may pose, and helps to make a better and informed decision on if they should be given a waiver access or not.
WHAT INFORMATION DOES THE CBP SEEK?
What the form does is ask for your account information on popular social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram. Surprisingly, they have also included some that we would not have normally thought about such as GitHub and Google+. There might be the inclusion of some more as time goes on or deletion of some of the options if it is seen that their relevance is over-stretched, or deemed surplus to requirements.
DO I NEED TO FILL OUT THIS PART OF THE FORM?
According to CBP, this is an added security measure, but it doesn’t mean that you would have to mandatorily give out your social media account details even if you don’t feel inclined to. It is an optional requirement and if what they have said is on the money, not giving up the information would not bar you from entering the United States. Even if this is the case, a lot of advocates for privacy have spoken against the measure since a lot of travelers are still bound to fill up those parts of the form, just in case. Of a truth, we also think that filling out this aspect would go a long way in putting you on a preferential pedestal for being granted the visa waiver over someone that has decided to take their chances. Either way, this is just a silently compulsory program.
WHY SOCIAL MEDIA INFORMATION?
The United States has launched an online security campaign for a while now with the aim to find and fish out those that are affiliated with one terrorist organization or the other or can be seen as sympathizers to their cause. It is no news that the Islamic State (ISIS) sect have had a solid online presence for a while and they have been holding some serious social media accounts too, especially on platforms such as Twitter. They have managed to use such accounts for the recruit a lot of members who are many miles away from the ground zero in Syria and Iraq, and they have spread countless messages with these accounts too.
This is then a next step method for the government to nip these potential threats in the bud should they find anything incriminating on their social media profiles.
To round off, they have said that the information you fill out would be held by the Department of Homeland Security for three years, after which it would be archived for a further twelve years. The agency also reserves the right to share the information it gets from your account with appropriate law enforcement agencies at any of the local, state and federal levels. You should then know that once you place your social media account details on that form, you would need to triple vet your posts before sending them out. They got their eyes on you.Google+