Future Tense

Border Patrol Wants to Collect Foreign Travelers’ Social Media Account Names

Customs is an increasingly digital affair, and the U.S. Border Patrol wants more digital deets.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For years, law enforcement groups have been collecting information on social media for investigations, and now U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to get in on the data. On Thursday, the agency proposed an addition to certain customs forms that would ask for foreign travelers’ social media names and handles.

Spotted by the Hill, the new field would read “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier,” and it would be optional to fill out. It would appear on forms for ingoing and outbound travelers to the U.S. who aren’t required to have a visa. Currently, citizens of 38 countries can visit the U.S. for 90 days for business or leisure without applying for a visa.

The Department of Homeland Security says:

“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.”

The proposal comes as recent violent terror incidents like the Paris attacks and Orlando shooting have reinforced the importance of social media data in investigations. The proposal is now in a 60-day open comment period ending Aug. 22. As long as providing the information is optional, it may not seem like a big deal either way. The change would begin to normalize the idea of governments collecting social media data, though. For better or worse.