US faces pushback on proposals to collect tourists' social media handles

Rights groups worry that a refusal to disclose may hurt visa applications.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

(Image: file photo)

A coalition of privacy and rights groups have called on the US government to scrap a proposal that would see customs officers collect social media handles of US-bound tourists.

In a letter posted Monday, the group of 28 various organizations called the plans "highly invasive" and "ineffective," and argued that it could lead to self-censorships or denials of visas based on content that's taken out of context.

The group, which includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy & Technology, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), called the proposals "an intelligence surveillance program clothed as a customs administration mechanism."

In case you missed it, Homeland Security set a proposal earlier this year that would expand the records for arrivals and departures at a cost of almost $300 million a year. This would give foreign nationals the option to provide their social media handles, which, according to the government's proposal submitted to the federal register, would give Homeland Security "greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set."

Comments on the proposal closed on Monday, the same day of the coalition's letter.

A spokesperson for Homeland Security couldn't be immediately reached Tuesday.

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