Aug 22 2016

Wanna be Facebook friends with U.S. Customs & Border Protection?

Today we submitted formal comments to U.S. Customs and Border Protection objecting to its proposal to start asking visitors to the USA to list all their “social media identifiers”. USCBP (a division of the Department of Homeland Security) proposes to add this question to the I-94W form for international visitors arriving in the U.S., and to the online ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) application form for vistors form countries in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program:

Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.” It will be an optional data field to request social media identifiers to 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.

We’ve previously argued that the entire ESTA scheme is an illegal de facto visa requirement that violates the rights of foreign visitors to the U.S. But this proposal would make it even worse.  Hundreds of individuals and more than two dozen organizations have already denounced this proposal. You can submit your own comments here until midnight tonight, Eastern time. If you agree with us that this is a terrible idea, feel free to endorse our comments or use them as a template:

We oppose this absurd and un-American questioning of foreign visitors to the U.S., and urge USCBP to withdraw this proposal.

Both freedom of speech and freedom of movement (“the right of the people… peaceably to assemble”) are recognized by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These rights are also recognized in Article 12 (freedom of movement) and Article 19 (freedom of expression) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty ratified by, and binding on, the U.S. In addition, Article 17 of the ICCPR recognizes a right to protection against “arbitrary or unlawful interference with … privacy … or correspondence.”…

The essence of human rights law is that these rights are recognized as universal rights to which all people are entitled regardless of their citizenship or nationality (if any). This proposal … treats foreign visitors to the U.S. as lacking these human rights, and thus implicitly as less than human… This would reinforce the impression around the world that the U.S. does not believe in or respect human rights, but regards these universal human rights as “privileges” granted by the government and enjoyed only by U.S. citizens. We do not want to live under such a government or in such a world…

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