Planning to travel to the United States soon? You might have to submit your username on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+.
The new ‘’optional’’ requirement was added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form which is a part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program which allows citizens of 38 countries to stay in the U.S. for 90 days without a visa.
The requirement is optional but the aim is to identify potential terrorist threats, says the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) who proposed the idea in June of this year with the intention of enhancing current investigative processes and providing the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections.
However, a coalition of several rights group including the American Civil Liberties Union released an open letter in August to express their concerns about the idea.
An excerpt from the letter says “This inquiry goes far beyond the customary visa-waiver application questions regarding a person’s name, address, criminal background, health status, and duration of stay,” the letter states. “A person’s online identifiers are gateways into an enormous amount of their online expression and associations, which can reflect highly sensitive information about that person’s opinions, beliefs, identity, and community.”
The letter also says that the discrimination could affect Arabs and Muslims whose usernames, posts, contacts and social networks will be heavily scrutinized.
Even though quite a number of groups are against it, the U.S. Government went ahead and added the requirement last week.
Source: CBS News