In what appears to be an invasion of privacy under the guise of the war against the war of terrorism, the United States government has started requesting social media identities from foreigners, this is right on the edge of sacrificing everyone’s privacy.
In a report that was issued by Politico, a proposal that was made in June 2016 looking into the incursion of people’s online presence has been approved by the Department of Homeland Security facilitating the addition to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization on the 19th of December.
A government official confirmed that from Tuesday, foreigners were presented with an optional request to fill in their online presence information, the foreigners had arrived in the U.S. on the visa waiver program. The drop down menu prompts the user to input their account names on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.
It’s worth noting that despite the request being optional, the U.S. surveillance apparatus can always access foreigner’s information by bypassing the privacy protection and demanding the information from the social media companies. However, some foreigners might wrongly assume that the optional request is compulsory while others might fill in the details for fear of being harassed.
Only visitors from the 38 countries on the visa waiver who are subjected to this measure, the program allows them to be in the U.S. for a period of up-to 3 months without Visa. These countries include several EU countries, Australia, U.K among others.
Following the announcement of the measure in June, it sparked a lot of condemnation and outrage from visitors. The measure was billed as a move to identify potential threats. However, the U.S. surveillance apparatus might abuse the same as pointed out by Snowden.
As pointed out by the Chief of Staff for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Office, Michael W. Macleod-Ball, the government has not issued any rules on how the information is gathered, maintained, and disseminated to other agencies. To make matters worse, there are no guidelines about limiting the government use of the information.
Many coalition rights groups have contested the move, such include the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties contested the move in a letter which pointed out that the move would invade personal privacy and imperil freedom of expression. The request is a gateway into enormous amounts of information on an individual’s beliefs, community, opinions, and other sensitive information.