On June 23, 2016, U.S. Customs put forward a proposal in the Federal Register to request that persons entering and exiting the United States voluntarily provide information about their social media account names. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) (part of the Department of Homeland Security) posted a Notice entitled “Agency Information Collection Activities: Arrival and Departure Record (Forms I-94 and I-94W) and Electronic System for Travel Authorization”. USCBP/DHS proposes to add the following question to ESTA and to Form I-94W:
“Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”
However, the I-94 and I-94W documents are declarations. As a result, failure to complete the forms and answer the question may result in problems at the United States border. Have you watched the television program “Border Security: America’s Front Line”? USCBP officers can be intimidating and aggressive pit bulls asking for information from travellers. This means that the provision of the information may not be truly voluntary when requested from visitors to the United States.
I can understand why USCBP wants the information. After recent mass shootings in the United States, the social media postings of the shooters/criminals/terrorists have been scrutinized and usually they have posted alarming information on social media. The warning signs are there if only they were seen at the time for what they were. I also can understand that the exit information may help USCBP identify Americans who are travelling to terrorist training camps and stop them from leaving/going.
The problem is that if the provision of social media information becomes mandatory, USCBP may accuse honest people of being untruthful and providing false statements if they do not provide the information or cannot honestly remember the social media account names. Depending on which social media forum one is on, the user names may be different because a person was not the first to claim the name and could not/would not buy the username from the first to file. There is potential for good people to be perceived as bad people. There is the potential for persons to forever lose their NEXUS passes because of being labelled “untrustworthy”.