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U.S. DHS to Collect Social Media Accounts Information from Tourists

Do you plan to go to the States? Do you need to apply for a visa? If you do, keep in mind that you may be asked by the Department of Homeland Security for information on your accounts. Apparently, collecting data on social media accounts would provide additional tools to improve the existing investigative process and give DHS a better idea of vile activities. For now, granting social account information is optional, but meanwhile if a visitor fails to provide it this could be interpreted as something that needs further analyses on behalf of authorities.

According to Politico, the new field has been introduced and activated this Tuesday (December 20th), as quoted by a government official.

The program permits most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the States for both business and tourism. Citizens could spend up to 90 days without obtaining the visa, if certain criteria are met.

However, the DHS proposal has seen criticism by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy & Technology and Electronic Frontier Foundation. Why? The organizations claim that people who are a real threat to the U.S. will not provide online identifiers that could raise questions about their admissibility to the country.

Related: Twitter Transparency Report 2016: 5,676 Government Information Requests Received

What is worse, the measure would needlessly affect people of Arab and Muslim origin, as their usernames, posts, contacts, and networks will be exposed and closely examined. And there’s also the right of online privacy each and every one of us should have, by default.

Moreover, the DHS decision arrives at a contradictory time, when the new administration of President-elect Donald Trump is about to toughen the audit of entrants into the States. The focus of this scrutiny surely falls on Muslims.

The administration of President Obama is said to annul a special registration system for visitors from countries with major Muslin and Arab population, known as National Security Entry-Exit Registration System.

This program is considered obsolete by the DHS, but it could have been put into motion again by Trump’s administration in order to target Muslim immigrants for extreme vetting.

Related: Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube Will Share Hashes to Fight Terrorism

Tech experts, employees of major companies, have signed a pledge against building a database for the government that could be leveraged by the government for the purpose of targeting people on race, religion and ethnicity origin.

In addition, it recently became evident in the latest report on global government requests that there is a 27% rise in requests for user account data. The rise is visible in the first half of 2016. Facebook alone received 59,229 requests during the first six months of the year, compared to 46,710 requests in the second half of 2015. The largest amount of data requests were from law enforcement agencies in the U.S., Digital Trends reports.

Milena Dimitrova

An inspired writer, focused on user privacy and malicious software. Enjoys 'Mr. Robot' and fears '1984'.

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