Security Market Segment LS
Monday, 27 June 2016 08:32

Uncle Sam seeks to snoop on foreigners' social media

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The United States Customs and Border Protection force wants to add a question to forms that foreign visitors are required to fill in when entering the country, asking for their social media details.

The agency has submitted a proposal for collection of the details and says this will be an optional field on the form.

On arrival in the US, a non-US citizen has to fill out two forms - a non-immigrant visa waiver arrival/departure record (I-94W) and an arrival/departure record (I-94).

The question proposed to be added reads: "Please enter information associated with your online presence — Provider/Platform — Social media identifier."

This query would also be added to the online form filled in by prospective visitors from countries which have a visa waiver arrangement with the US.

The agency said in a notice on the US federal register that it had recently added questions asking applicants about countries they had visited on or after March 1, 2011; countries where they hold citizenship or are nationals and their Global Entry Numbers.

These were added after President Barack Obama signed into law the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.

Every time there is a new question added to any of the forms, it requires additional staff and money to process the information received.

As far as the new proposal goes, the agency gave the following estimates:

Changes to form I-94 (arrival and departure record) would mean about eight minutes more spent on the form by each of the 4.3 million travellers with the cost associated being US$26.4 million. An additional 583,544 work hours were estimated to be needed to process the information.

Changes to the I-94 website would take about four minutes for 3.85 million travellers. No cost estimate was provided. An additional 254,679 work hours were estimated to be needed to process the information.

As far as form I-94W, the non-immigrant visa waiver arrival/departure form goes, the number of people estimated to be filling it was 941,291 with the cost to the US being US$5.64 million. An additional 251,325 work hours were estimated to be needed to process the information.

The agency estimated that more than 23 million would need to fill the additional details on the electronic system for travel authorisation (ESTA) website, with the cost to the US being US$265 million. The additional work hours required to process this information was estimated at 8,812,830.

Anyone who wishes to submit a comment about the proposal has until 22 August to do so.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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