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US Govt proposes to grab data from Aussie tourists

AUSTRALIAN visitors to the Unites States may soon be expected to hand over details of their social media accounts to customs officials.

U.S Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, has asked the government for permission to add questions to forms filled out by all visitors from countries that are eligible for a visa waiver, including Australia.

The question proposed is: "Please enter information associated with your online presence-Provider/Platform-Social media identifier."

The data would be optional to provide, and officers would only be able to access public information. 

America is one of the most popular destinations for Australian travellers. Tourism Research Australia statistics show more than 900,000 Australians visited the states in 2015.

The request was opened for public comment in June and will now go to the U.S government's Office of Management and Budget for review.

If it is approved, tourists could be asked for their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profile information as soon as December, The Intercept reported.

The United Nations has already responded to the proposal through a letter written by the U.N special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression to the U.N's American ambassador.

"Through its proposed collection, The DHS (Department of Homeland Security), could potentially collect, based on disclosed identifiers, personal and sensitive information such as one's social, religious and political views and opinions, pictures, contact lists and geolocation information," the letter said.

"Such information could be collected about not only the travellers who disclose their indentifiers, but also their family members, colleagues and other contacts in their social and professional online networks." 

"While DHS has stated that responses are voluntary, it is unclear how leaving the data field blank will affect one's eligibility for the VWP (visa waiver program) process."

"For example, it is unclear whether a blank response may flag the traveller for additional screening procedures or alternative forms of scrutiny."

Topics:  editors picks general-seniors-news travel travel-international united states



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