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Border Agents May Soon Collect Social Media Information

Foreign travelers attempting to enter the US may soon be required to provide their social media accounts to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as part of the screening process.

CBP’s proposed change would add a line on both the online and paper versions of the visa application form that visitors to the US must fill out if they do not have a visa and are planning on staying for up to 90 days, reports The Guardian.

The form would ask visitors to write down their social media usernames so that agents can gather more information from their public profiles and timelines.

The policy is part of a new focus on the use of social networking sites following the San Bernardino killings in California, in which social media profiles formed part of the investigations along with an iPhone 5C.

The Department of Homeland Security, who oversees CBP, has already been testing ways to use publicly available social media information about visitors in the screening process, but it currently has no standard procedure for acting on this information found on social media accounts.

The lack of such a policy earned the department a harsh rebuke from Congress after the FBI uncovered that one of the San Bernardino attackers sent private Facebook messages to friends in Pakistan about her support for violent jihad.

“We should have said, ‘We want your social media, both your private stuff and your public stuff,’” said Stephen Lynch, a Democratic representative from Massachusetts, during a heated House committee hearing in December. “That’s entirely reasonable to ask people who are coming from countries that are known to sponsor terror.”

Earlier this spring, the government made an official policy to use public social media posts in background investigations for security clearances. Combined with CBP’s proposal, these policies could be the foot in the door for other parts of government also seeking to use social media information in their vetting processes. If agencies agree to share gathered information with each other, it would eliminate the need for separate policies.

The US government approves around 10 million visa applications a year and saw 77.5 million foreign visitors in 2015. Collecting social media accounts for all visitors could produce one of the largest government-controlled databases of its kind almost overnight.

Posted in General News

Tags: Customs and Border Protection , CBP, social media, Customs & Border Protection

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