No State Department Social Media Surveillance

Story image for social media from ABC News

EFF has joined a coalition effort, led by the Brennan Center for Justice, to oppose yet another federal program to scrutinize the social media accounts of foreign visitors to the United States.

Specifically, in an attempt to uncover would-be terrorists, the U.S. State Department hasempowered consular officials to ask visa applicants who raise preliminary suspicions to disclose the existence of the social media accounts, and the identifiers or handles associated with those accounts, that the applicants have used over the past five years.

This is the fourth time in less than a year that EFF has opposed federal efforts to scrutinize the social media accounts of foreign visitors. We opposed similar CBP proposals concerning visitors from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program, and certain visa applicants from China. Also, we opposed the potential plan, announced by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, to require certain foreign travelers to hand over their social media passwords in order to apply for a visa.

These proposals threaten the digital privacy and freedom of expression of innocent foreign travelers, and the many U.S. citizens who communicate with them. Moreover, the government has not shown that such information collection will be effective at combating terrorism.