News & Blog

Your Social Media Could Soon Be Part of the Screening Process for Entering the U.S.

By Francis West on 6th July 2016

As America looks for ways to make its border controls more effective, the Federal Register of the U.S. government has published a proposed change to travel and entry forms that asks for information about your social media accounts.

Your Social Media Used For Vetting

Although it is of course possible to set up fake social media accounts it is difficult and time consuming to make them look authentic. The U.S. government therefore appears to considering the studying of social media accounts of those travelling to the U.S. as a valid and useful additional element in the vetting process for entry to the country.

The Reason

The reason given on the U.S. Federal Register website for the proposed extra (but optional) section to the travel authorization forms is that the social identifiers will be:

“used for vetting purposes, as well as applicant contact information. 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.”

Which Forms?

The proposed change will apply to the I-94 travel form, and to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) visa.

What Does The Proposed Question Say?

The rather innocuous question actually says:

“Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”

In short, this means that you could be asked to provide your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram URLs when applying for a visa.

Some Already Monitored

It is known that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency already carries out some social media monitoring of incoming travellers as there have been some reports in the media of travellers who have been detained on arrival, questioned and deported rightly or wrongly, based upon social media posts they have made that could suggest a possible threat.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If you travel to the U.S. for business, be aware that what you post / share / tweet on your social media accounts could have a bearing on your eligibly to meet that country’s entry requirements.

It could even be the case that if you have used security trigger words and / or language in your posts which could possibly be construed as a threat of some kind, you may not receive the warmest of welcomes at the U.S. border.

This story should also remind us that many of the things we put on our social media accounts can be seen by e.g. employers, colleagues, suppliers, professional associations etc. It is important to remember therefore that your company social media should maintain a professional tone and quality of output that positively supports your brand image and company values.