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George Orwell, 1984 book covers

You have the opportunity to comment on US Custom and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) collection of social media information on Chinese citizens with 10-year B-1 or B-2 visas. All Chinese citizens with a 10-year B-1 or B-2 visa are now required to register with CBP through the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS). The list of questions includes “optional” questions regarding an applicant’s social media accounts and use. CBP may extend the EVUS system to citizens of other countries as well.

You have up to May 30, 2017 to comment on the following: 1) whether collection of applicants’ social media information will have “practical utility”; 2) the estimated costs and burden to the federal government; 3) how to enhance the quality and usefulness of the information collected; and 4) ways to reduce the costs and burden of their procedures. Comments should be addressed to the OMB Desk Officer for Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, and sent via electronic mail to oira_submission@omb.eop.gov or faxed to (202) 395–5806.

Millions of people coming to the U.S. from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries are already being asked to “volunteer” their social media information. Regarding the collection of social media information from VWP entrants, the ACLU commented in August 2017:

“The proposed expansion of the existing questionnaire would significantly increase the invasiveness of the information collected not only about foreign travelers, but also about their U. S. citizen social media contacts, and have a chilling effect on their communications. It would also increase the complexity of the visa waiver decision-making process…

The proposed change would collect social media identifiers from millions of individuals deemed least likely to have terrorist connections and would result in the collection of personal information on the tens of millions of social media contacts of those individuals, many of whom would be U. S. citizens or residents…”

This will make the decision to admit someone to the US highly subjective and subject to abusive behavior on the part of CBP officers, not to mention the enormous waste of resources on checking people’s Facebook and other social media accounts. People with B-1 or B-2 visas have already been subjected to extensive security checks and have been found not to be a security risk. As pointed out by Jeff John Roberts in Fortune on December 23, 2016, “would-be terrorists, even dim-witted ones, would be unlikely to disclose their social media profile to the U.S. government.”

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