back to article Privacy advocates rail against US Homeland Security's Twitter, Facebook snooping

A proposal to ask people to provide details of their social media accounts before entering the United States has been criticized as "highly invasive" by privacy advocates. A coalition of 28 groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), Consumer Federation of America, and …

  1. Vimes

    Potential solution:

    1.) create dummy social media accounts

    2.) leave the accounts empty

    3.) hand these over to DHS

    ...with an option of leaving a single post in each account telling the DHS in no uncertain terms to go f*ck itself (and/or goatse related images if you want to make them seriously regret going anywhere near your profile)

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      @Vimes, RE: Fake accounts.

      Enjoy a pint on me for every upvote this site won't let me give you past the first. Please don't croak from alcohol poisoning though, ok? =-)

      I was going to say to claim not to have any social media accounts at all, but if you MUST give an answer to such invasive prying then a fake "Fuck You!" account would be the best. I especially like/approve of the nasty background image idea - let the nosy bastard need to imbibe an entire keg of MindBleach to get the images out of their head.


    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      The only problem with opening an account and putting goatse as the profile image is that a) you'll probably see it too and b) when you get there you'll probably be taken to one side and lead to a private room where they'll try to recreate the image using a pair of latex gloves.

    3. Oengus

      Just a suggestion

      leaving a single post in each account telling the DHS in no uncertain terms to go f*ck itself

      Suggestion... Don't put this post on your farcebook page until you are safely out of the US otherwise you might just find yourself subject to a cavity search of unusual intensity.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "create dummy social media accounts"

      Lousy advice, full of bad assumptions. If motivated, the first thing DHS would do is cross check the IP used to create the dummy account with all other activity from that ISP / IP combo. So you need another step here:

      0.) Set up a dummy account at a net cafe far from where you live. Then log off. Or use Tor / VPN. But watch-out if you're based in the UAE etc.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't even have social media accounts...

      I'd leave these empty by default, as shock horror I seem to be one of the rare few that don't like to spout out my inner-most thoughts or what I'm eating right now to everyone on the net. This would of course bump me up their 'random bag check' algorithm I'm sure...

    6. phuzz Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      I assume that they'll treat an empty, or obviously fake account the same as they'd treat you not telling them your account name in the first place.

      Which is to say, they probably won't do anything in most cases, they'll just tick the "enhanced security" box so that someone else has to lay their hands on you.

      This is a government bureaucracy, they're not out to get you, they're out to get their pension whilst covering their own arse.

  2. David 132 Silver badge

    I did Nazi that coming

    "But then the DHS is not renowned for nuance, most famously indicated by the entry question asking whether you were ever a member of the Nazi government or have ever participated in genocide. "

    On the other hand, those entry forms introduced so many people to the phrase "moral turpitude"...

    1. Vimes

      Re: I did Nazi that coming

      Personally the only problem I've ever had with immigration when entering the US was the way in which they didn't filter out the non-ESTA travellers from the ESTA flights and travellers. If they're going to make things even worse then they really ought to look into changing that first

      (there was a separate queue for ESTA visitors, but there was one rather big limitation: it was only for those that had their passports stamped within the last year - most hadn't been it seemed).

      This meant when I got off the flight last year I was stuck behind a plane full of what I'm guessing were Chinese nationals (and the language issues many of the older people passing through seemed to have didn't help either). It seemed to take forever to get through, made even more annoying by how quickly me and those like me passed through when we finally got to the front of the queue.

    2. tony2heads

      Re: I did Nazi that coming

      To have been in the Nazi Government you would have to have been at least 20 years old in 1945, so that means you would have to have been born in 1925, making you about 91 years old.

      This is hardly relevant to the vast bulk of air travellers.

    3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: I did Nazi that coming

      The purpose of those questions is not to get you to own up to the various moral lapses listed, but to get you to lie.

      So, everybody answers "no" to the questions. If someone is found out to have indulged in moral turpitude, even if the exact nature is not a crime, they can be jailed and deported for lying on their entry card.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    I haven't got any social media accounts

    Are they going to believe me?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I haven't got any social media accounts

      I've got 118 pages of posts that says you're a terrorist communist sympathizer.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: I haven't got any social media accounts

        I feel sorry for the person who has to read every post before coming to that conclusion.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I haven't got any social media accounts

      Sir Vladimir: What else has no social media accounts?

      Homeland Security staff: Bread! Apples! Very small rocks!

      King Arthur: A duck!

      Sir Vladimir: Exactly! So logically...

      HS staffer: If he tweets the same as a duck... He's made of wood!

      Sir Vladimir: And therefore...?

      HS staff: A terrorist! A terrorist!a terrorist!

  4. Oldfogey

    But FB requires your real details.... (not, actually)

    They can have details of my FB, for all the good it will do them. The only correct piece of information is my name, and one post to see how it worked (Hello flowers, hello sky).

    1. collinsl

      Re: But FB requires your real details.... (not, actually)

      And the TSA add:

      "hullo pile of used rubber gloves..."

  5. vir

    It's Not Surveillance If You Volunteer

    Instead of spending $300 million to hire a bunch of people to look at pictures of food and people's pets, they might consider putting the money towards improving the 95% breach test failure rate. Oh, and also the two-hour screening lines.

    1. gerdesj Silver badge

      Re: It's Not Surveillance If You Volunteer

      If I was a suspicious bastard then I would say it is actually part of a concerted effort to gradually erode civil liberties. The DHS ask for this, which starts off voluntary and then suddenly becomes mandatory. I can see a new ESTA website with a huge bank of "sign in with" buttons, that grant one or two permissions to Uncle Sam's boys n girls.

      I'm sure I will see something similar over here on the right bank of the pond when I next apply for a new passport. Oh look my current one has EU citizen written on it *tsk* I'll be needing a new one soon.

      Remember, in the UK we have proudly foiled national ID cards and yet have driving licenses and passports that do the job instead by another name. We also have a smart new PM who the rest of the five eyes probably have wet dreams about (for her policies, quiet at the back please)

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: It's Not Surveillance If You Volunteer

        "yet have driving licenses and passports that do the job instead by another name."

        Not so. You don't need your passport or DL on you as you go about your business do you? No.

        Can you get in to see someone at your GP/Local Hospital without them? Yes.

        So, nothing like National ID cards then.

    2. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: It's Not Surveillance If You Volunteer

      95% breach test failure rate, you say?

  6. jamesb2147

    Two concerns I've heard so far:

    1) Longer processing

    2) More expense

    I'd say $300M for all the visitors coming to the US is high, but not so bad. I hadn't really considered all the extra man-hours, though. :X

    Longer processing actually is a HUGE negative. Get more automated kiosks, CBP!

    The privacy concerns are moot until CBP makes this a mandatory field or otherwise "punishes" travelers who do not fill it out.

    1. Vimes

      I'd say $300M for all the visitors coming to the US is high, but not so bad.

      For what benefit though?

      Terrorists are just as likely to give out the accounts with all the nasty stuff as spies were likely to say 'yes actually, I *am* working for my government!' when presented with the old style green visa waiver forms. Or for that matter communists ticking the wrong box on said form.

      This will have zero benefit whilst at the same time costing huge amounts of money.

      It took me something of the region of one and a half to two hours to get through immigration at San Francisco last time. Add on the extra minutes for each person in front of me to deal with this and I'd probably have had to wait at least another hour.

      And that doesn't even begin to cover old people who barely speak English and have trouble understanding what Twitter is, much less whether they have any account details to hand over.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mrs Slocombe / BBC's Are You Being Served? v DHS

    New Script: A modern day version of Mrs Slocombe, responding to DHS on arrival in the US. 'Who BHS? Why do you want that (social media account details)? I just use it to upload pictures of my lovely Pussy.

    (A note to BBC, it was bad enough then, which desperate Executive thought it would be a good idea to remake this 1970's show?)

  8. wub

    A Modest Request

    As a US citizen residing in the US, I try to keep current on news and events in the US by reading sites like this one, and watching the BBC World News. Our news outlets spend an inordinate amount of time discussing weather and the two-year election cycle, and somehow neglect to cover actual news items all too often.

    If you're planning a report on government silliness involving a comment period, could you help us out by posting it BEFORE the comment period ends? I followed the link hoping to express my opinion and was foiled by being "a day late and a dollar short". Oh well. Why would anyone take me seriously anyway? Besides, I wouldn't have any trouble filling in such a form, since I don't have any social media accounts. I'm sure they wouldn't have a problem with that, right?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Modest Request

      unfortunately (in this case) your criticism is mis-directed, the matter was reported in the Register a few months ago, I'm absolutely positive about it. That text also mentioned "consultation". Those to participate would have had to be US citizens only but hey, what does it matter anyway?

      1. VinceH

        Re: A Modest Request

        Indeed - very close to two months ago. It was the very first link in the article.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    America is overdone...

    Why not just go somewhere else... The world is full of amazing places. I lived in the US for 20 years. Its nothing special.... Whereas there are countries and cities that would welcome your visit with open arms, and they offer amazing things to see and do...

  10. lglethal Silver badge

    When i hear things like this...

    It kinda makes me hope that trump does win over there, but instead of just building a wall to Mexico, he can build it all the way around the country (hell I'd chuck some money into the pot for that). But not to keep us dirty foreigners out, but to keep all the Americans in!

    We could turn it into a sort of large scale Battle Royale show! Hell they've already got the weapons!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hey you, yes YOU!

    you wanna a nice, clean facebook profile to go along your US visa application to increase your chances? Click here to enter your credit card details. We positively GUARANTEE you won't regret this smart mart. We've had BILLIONS of facebook profiles set up and we're still growing. See FB growth chart and subscribe NOW!!!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    have ever participated in genocide

    give them some slack. After all, the same questions can be found in a naturalisation form:


    In times of peace or war have you ever been involved in, or suspected of involvement in,

    war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide?


    Have you ever been involved in, supported or encouraged terrorist activities in any



    Have you ever been a member of, or given support to an organisation which has been

    concerned in terrorism?


    Have you ever, by any means or medium, expressed views that justify or glorify terrorist

    violence or that may encourage others to terrorist acts or other serious criminal acts?

    that's UK naturalisation, btw

    1. Christoph

      Re: have ever participated in genocide

      "In times of peace or war have you ever been involved in, or suspected of involvement in,

      war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide?"

      Which as phrased would include anyone with a number tattooed on them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: have ever participated in genocide

      "In times of peace or war have you ever been involved in, or suspected of involvement in, war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide?"

      Well, that rules out Tony Blair...

  13. Christoph
    Black Helicopters

    Well that's me out then

    If they check my account on El Reg they will find multiple postings which are less than grovellingly and slavishly in favour of every action of "The World's Greatest Democracy Yee Ha!".

    Which presumably would lead to them blocking me from entry, as I might endanger their constitution (such as the first amendment).

  14. Titus Aduxass
    Thumb Down

    I have lots of social media accounts

    And none of them in my name.

    So how would they know if I was telling the truth? Would they force me to login / post to each of them to prove it...?

  15. PapaD

    I often wonder

    If they do this just so that they have something to detain you over, whilst trying to prove that you actually did the thing that you say you didn't do.

  16. Chris 125

    This is genuis! Someone must be getting a large bonus.

    I mean, if I were a naughty terrorist then I'd use social media to share tips and chat about my work. And the best bit about this idea is that social media accounts are mapped perfectly to people - every single occupant of planet Earth has one Facebook account, and one account only.

    I mean, to create another you'd need another email address - that seems impossible.

    Good work, American Security People!

  17. The_Idiot


    ... it is, of course, unlikely that 'Bad Guys(tm)' (yes, Jones Minor. I can see you at the back. Or 'Bad Girls(tm)' too. Now stop sniggering and see me after class) would never answer 'yes' to the various 'are you a Bad (insert gender here) person' questions on such forms, that isn't the point of the question. Getting a 'yes' I mean. The point is that the PTB make 'lying on the form' an offense in itself. So when they want to, um, 'have a close word' with a possible Bad (insert gender here), but said person hasn't yet done anything 'Bad', the PTB can arrest or otherwise be nasty to them for 'suspected telling porkies on official paper'.

    They used to say Russian laws were set so it was impossible for a tourist to cross Red Square without committing at least ten offences - not so the PTB could arrest every tourist, but so they could arrest any of them _if_they_ wanted_to_...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can set the privacy to prevent outside access

    If your Facebook is accessible only to friends, or only to friends of friends, then DHS staffers won't be able to see anything. They'd have to ask for your passwords for there to be a point to asking at all.

    One would presume those entering the US with plans to commit terrorism would either have no social media accounts, lie and claim they have none if they do, or have dummy accounts that look presentable to US authorities. Any terrorists they caught with this are the ones who were not really serious or who would have been caught in other ways. Then there are all the false positives, from people who may show some sympathy towards terrorists or at least hostility towards the US, but have no intent on committing any sort of terrorist attacks. Last time I checked, thinking good thoughts about the US and its foreign policy wasn't required for entry - though undoubtedly there are some who would change that if they could.

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. Medixstiff

    On the bright side....

    I'm never going the US so this won't affect me.

    Once they change it to you must provide the details, it will be interesting to see what happens if enough visitors on business say no.

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