In the future, data from social media will also be requested for visa-free entry into the USA. At least, that’s what the U.S. Border Patrol wants.
Could become more difficult: Immigration control at New York’s JFK airport Photo: reuters
Before entering the United States, citizens participating in the so-called Visa Waiver Program will have to disclose their social media user data. Last week, the Customs and Border Protection (CPB) published a corresponding draft in the Federal Register, the digital official journal. The Visa Waiver Program applies, for example, to Germans traveling to the U.S. as tourists or to visit friends.
According to the draft, the so-called ESTA form to be filled out before visa-free entry into the U.S. is to be expanded to include a request for information on the use of social media. For those entering by land, the question would also appear on the I-94 migration form, which is largely eliminated for air travel.
According to the proposal, the information would be used to "enhance the existing investigative process and provide greater clarity to Homeland Security about any nefarious activity."
Under the proposal, the disclosures would be optional – though the question is whether there would be any fear that those who refuse to provide the information might just make themselves suspicious.
About $300 million cost per year
Per year, the proposal expects a good 23 million disclosures from entrants. The cost to the U.S. government of verifying the data would then be estimated at just under $300 million annually.
What is surprising is that this time the proposal refers only to visa-exempt entrants. As early as 2011, Homeland Security had called for a corresponding question to be included in visa applications. For reasons that are not entirely clear, however, the proposal was not adopted at the time without even becoming public knowledge.
When the MSNBC network reported it late last year, two weeks after the San Bernardino attack, members of Congress and U.S. anti-terror officials reacted by shaking their heads. They called for an urgent review of social media activity. Any data protection concerns did not count – after all, it was only about data that had been published by the people concerned themselves and entirely voluntarily.