The next time you enter any of the US borders declaring cash or agricultural products you have brought with you into the US, there is a chance you will be asked to give your different social media accounts’ names.
The US Customs and Border Protection announced recently its plans to ask visitors to the United States to “voluntarily” give their social media accounts in an optional section of the visiting form. It is claimed that this step would help in the screening process and identify those connected to terrorism.
“Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity,” the border agency said, referring to the Department of Homeland Security, its parent organization, as reported by the New York Times.
There are a lot of details that led to such a decision especially after the terrorist attacks that took place in the US and in Europe last year. However, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the true benefits of such a system.
At the first glance, there are the privacy concerns. Although in principle, sharing posts, tweets and snaps on social media platforms means a consent from users to surrender part of his or her privacy, but handing these accounts to a governmental body means subjecting your opinions and views to be scrutinized by bureaucratic rules, opening a wide door for subjectivity and misinterpretation. “Vacuuming up social media accounts from travelers brings up privacy fears from Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the technology industry. The directive from the government is unclear, and easy enough to get around, but can easily ensnare the innocent,” Zeljka Zorz, managing editor of trade publication Help Net Security told The New York Post.
On the other hand, there are questions about users choosing to use fake names for their social media presence, or users impersonating others, or users reporting accounts of other users? There are no details yet on how the DHS would be able to verify such information and what would be the consequences. Zeljka Zorz discussed this point in one of her articles saying “What’s stopping them (the travelers) from lying about their online presence on social media? What about accounts with fake names? What about accounts of people who have the same name as the traveler? And what about fake accounts that can be created by people other than the person in question, but impersonating him or her? Will people be sanctioned for “lying” when they didn’t know about these accounts?“
Most importantly, it is quite obvious that no one with a criminal intent or history would be willing to hand over his or her real accounts especially if those intents were scattered all over social media! This particular point makes the new ruling look like a redundant security measure that would rarely lead to any solid results.