Homeland Security’s Social Media Proposal Criticized by Tech, Advocacy Groups

An attempt by the Department of Homeland Security to encourage people entering the country to provide their social media usernames has critics concerned about the potential ripple effects.

The Department of Homeland Security isn’t winning a lot of fans from the tech world for the department’s latest proposal, nor is it winning supporters among civil liberties groups.

This week, both types of groups were among the most prominent critics of the DHS proposal to push foreign nationals entering the United States to provide their social media usernames in an effort to better identify potential extremists. Ars Technica notes that such disclosure would be optional.

But the proposal has still proved controversial, based on a joint comment submitted by a coalition of advocacy groups, led by the Center for Democracy and Technology, which called the approach “highly invasive”:

This inquiry goes far beyond the customary visa-waiver application questions regarding a person’s name, address, criminal background, health status, and duration of stay. A person’s online identifiers are gateways into an enormous amount of their online expression and associations, which can reflect highly sensitive information about that person’s opinions, beliefs, identity, and community. Further, analysis of all visa-waiver applicants’ social media activity and connections would be a difficult and prohibitively expensive intelligence activity—costs that are not reflected in the proposal.

The letter was signed by 33 different groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The technology industry also had a number of concerns. According to Politico, the Internet Association and a number of its tech firms sent a letter to the DHS, warning of a slippery slope that could hurt travelers as a whole.

“Should the U.S. Government advance with the DHS proposal, it is probable that other countries will make similar requests of visitors entering their country, including U.S. citizens,” the letter to the agency stated. “This will be true for democratic and non-democratic countries alike, including those that do not have the same human rights and due process standards as the U.S.”

Google, Facebook, and Twitter were among the signatories of the letter, Politico reported.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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