U.S. government agencies to spy on foreign travelers social media activities as soon as they arrive

(Cyberwar.news) As part of a new push to ramp up counterterrorism efforts, U.S. government agencies will ask that travelers to the United States provide access to their social media accounts, according to a new proposal published in the Federal Register.

As reported by The Hacker News, a traveler’s Twitter handle, Facebook page and other social media accounts could soon be included as part of the U.S. Visa process as part of the Customs and Border Protections proposal, so that federal agencies can monitor their online presence.

The proposal, which was formally submitted by the Department of Homeland Security, under which CBP falls, would update required entry forms with this request: “Please enter information associated with your online presence – Provider/Platform – Social media identifier.”

“It will be an optional data field to request social media identifiers to be used for vetting purposes, as well as applicant contact information,” says the proposal. “Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

Foreigners visiting the U.S. are already subject to fingerprinting, an interview by Customs officials and photographed, as part of the vetting process.

“The new field would be added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and Form I-94 that is used as a record to notify United States authorities in advance of their arrival to and departure from the country,” The Hacker News reported.

The U.S. is not the only country that seeks to track foreign visitors; many nations have other ways in which they keep track of them.

For instance, in Canada the government tracks foreign travelers even days after they have left the airport terminal by capturing their device ID from the free Wi-Fi hotspots at major Canadian airports, according to documents that were released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

That said, tracking is illegal, noted The Hacker News. “Just recently, a Singapore-based InMobi mobile advertising company that tracked the locations of hundreds of Millions of users without their consent agreed to pay $950,000 in penalties to settle charges of violating federal law,” the site reported.

Others have questioned the logic behind the initiative, suggesting that terrorists would not voluntarily reveal their social media presence. They also noted that the initiative would do nothing to root out terrorists who are already in the country.

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