Intercepting Traveler’s Tweets

SOON, FOREIGN VISITORS to the United States will be expected to tell U.S. authorities about their social media accounts.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to start collecting ‘information associated with your online presence’ from travelers from countries eligible for a visa waiver, including much of Europe and a handful of other countries. Earlier this summer, the agency proposed including a field on certain customs forms for ‘provider/platform’ and ‘social media identifier,’ making headlines in the international press. If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the change could take effect as soon as December.

Privacy groups in recent weeks have pushed back against the idea, saying it could chill online expression and gives DHS and CBP overbroad authority to determine what kind of online activity constitutes a ‘risk to the United States’ or ‘nefarious activity.'”

As a cyber anthropologist who, at times, uses social media for research – I find this highly disturbing. Twitter is turning into /b where nothing anyone says can really be taken seriously these days. This is ill-conceived and lacks critical understanding of the platform and the culture surrounding it.