The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) submitted a proposal last week that would allow it to ask non-citizens traveling to the United States about their Facebook profiles and online presence. The CBP already screens foreigners with in-person interviews and database reviews, according to USA Today, but this potential new policy could give the organization far greater power.
“Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide [Department of Homeland Security] greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity,” the proposal said.
While this kind of snooping seems invasive, the individuals being asked to have their social media presence screened could always refuse to hand over their handles to the government. Also, the CBP would not have access to the account passwords of these individuals (at least under the current proposal).
What the proposal does signify is the government’s awareness of how extremism spreads on social media. Facebook in particular has faced increasing political pressure to step up its fight against terrorism.
“We’re in a new age where terrorist groups like ISIL are using social media to reinvent how they recruit and plot attacks,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said late last year, after she introduced a bill that would require tech companies to report terrorists. “That information can be the key to identifying and stopping terrorist recruitment or a terrorist attack, but we need the help from technology companies.”
This current CBP proposal seems pretty flawed (wouldn’t terrorists scrub their Facebook page of evidence before coming to the U.S.?), but it does show how seriously the government takes the issue of terrorism on social media.