If you’re a non-U.S. citizen entering the U.S. with a passport issued by one of our friends in Europe, you can enter “without a visa” by completing an “Electronic System for Travel Authorization” form online and paying a fee (which, if you think about it, is really no different from getting a visa… it’s just you print a piece of paper instead of get a mark in your passport).
The questions on the application are mostly the typical stuff you’d expect we might ask those entering our country, but DHS now proposes to add one more:
“Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”
What’s wrong with that? Well, I’ve explained in a letter opposing the proposed rule that there are many problems with this. The first is that it’s not even clear what one would need to disclose, and sometimes disclosure may be a troubling basis for discrimination:
Do I need to think back to the MySpace account that I created in 2003 and have not used since 2006? If I have a username for a chat room or message board, does that count? What about Tinder? Or perhaps I use the popular dating app for gay men known as Grindr. Do you think it’s reasonable that I would then need to indirectly disclose my sexual preference as a condition of entering this country? Or perhaps I use the Web site for connecting individuals with sexual fetishes known as FetLife. Will you then review my FetLife account and determine if my preferred variety of kinky sex is acceptable? If it is uncovered that I enjoy being dominated by women in latex bodysuits while ball gagged, will a CBP officer consider me the same level of security risk as one who prefers long walks on the beach and seeks a partner who loves Jesus? Speaking of Jesus, many people use social networking related to their religion (Christian Mingle, JDate, etc.). Now you’d like to know my religion, too?
Not particularly worried since you’re a U.S. citizen and therefore won’t have to personally deal with this problem? Think again…
When the U.S. government implements a stupid rule affecting foreign visitors, other countries implement retaliatory rules on U.S. citizens seeking to enter their territory. … Many other countries require visa fees only from U.S. citizens (or higher visa fees only for U.S. citizens), or fingerprinting only for U.S. citizens, in retaliation for what we do to their citizens. I don’t want to have to share my Facebook details in order to travel, and if you implement this rule, it is all but certain that I shall have to do so as other countries decide to implement retaliatory rules.
It would be nice if DHS, for once, could do something that would actually improve our safety rather than play around with technology that they know nothing about.
[Edit – Online comments are now allowed from the public! Let DHS know what you think!]