back to article Uncle Sam challenged in court for slurping social media info on 'millions' of visa applicants

The US State Department is being sued over its policy of crawling the social media accounts of people applying for entry visas. A complaint [PDF] filed to the Washington DC US District Court alleges that Uncle Sam's policy "violates the expressive and associational rights of visa applicants by compelling them to facilitate the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My social media account?

    I'm on Twitter as the real Donald Trump. Does that mean I can get my visa now?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My social media account?

      No. Only your parents-in-law.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: My social media account?

      Does that mean I can get my visa now?

      I'm afraid your application has been turned down, since a large proportion of your tweets indicate you have caused harm to America and its interests around the world.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My social media account?

      No visa for you, you get a Toys R Us credit card...

  2. LDS Silver badge

    Today I found that to visit a Christmas Fair I had to "register"

    They wanted to see my ID card for "security reasons" - without actually doing any "security check" if I were a dangerous person or not - just looking that the information they were collecting for tracking, marketing and advertising were real.

    I can understand the x-ray checks - even if big knives were actually sold without problems at the fair itself in the previous years... sure, not being USA no firearms on sale without any check, and checking for bombs can be OK, given how people are there. But i were a suicide bomber I would have no problem to show you my ID card, and then explode with it in my hand.

    Their privacy policy is a joke, a good example how to attempt to twist GDPR against citizens: https://pass.artigianoinfiera.it/therms.html (enjoy the bad English - the Italian is no better, anyway - don't know where they copied and pasted from, and how many automatic translators were used).

    "the Data Subject may revoke their consent at any time, assuming the consequences"

    "request the cancellation of redundant data, but not that required by law by the Data Controller"

    (Bold mine)

    you may ask what "redundant data" are, what "consequences" follow revoking, and what law requires a fair organization to keep data about visitors - the same organization that happen to run an online store. But hinting some menaces was probably thought a good way to stop people revoking consent or asking data deletion.

    I refused, sent them to hell, and went elsewhere. I wonder what they will ask next.

    Between surveillance capitalism, security theatre, and both companies and governments eager to track everybody everywhere.

    China could find one day they just became amateurs.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    And for those with NO social media accounts

    I presume it would be 'access denied'

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

      Isn't someone without a Social Media presence considered "persona non grata" in this modern times?

      Going anon because one day I might want to visit Uncle Sam and he may deny access cause, %reason%

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

      Bring a tea set and tell them it's your "social" "media".

      My coat is the one with milk on the right and sugar on the left.

      1. DontFeedTheTrolls
        Coat

        Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

        "Milk and sugar?"

        "Please"

        "One lump or two?"

        "One please"

        "And Sugar?"

        Dirk Gently

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

      You will soon be sent to a Facebook-run reeducation camp where you will be taught 'sharing is gooood, privacy is baaaaad'.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

      Well, that includes me.

      While 'Dear Leader Donald' is in the Whitehouse pretending to 'drain the swamp' I have no intention of visiting the USofA.

      I suspect that he'll be declaring himself 'President for Life' like his pal Putin. Constitution? What Constitution... The only constitution he understands is the short walk between his golf buggy and the ball.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

        You mean the short walk between his golf buggy and the spot where he says he found his ball.

      2. iron Silver badge

        Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

        And me. Not that I'm losing any sleep over it. I have no interest in visiting a country where they fingerprint you on arrival like a giant high security prison.

        Escape from U.S.A. where the Orange King is A number one!

        1. DontFeedTheTrolls
          Coat

          Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

          Just made me think - was the "Orange King" a prediction in Disney's take of Jungle Book as King Louie

      3. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

        "I suspect that he'll be declaring himself 'President for Life' like his pal Putin. "

        Given his diet and health, I wouldn't be surprised if he turns out to be President for Life, assuming he gets a second term.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Oh please

          I have no need for a sequel, nor does anyone else.

        2. EnviableOne Silver badge

          Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

          for his life, then he'll legislate that Ivanka takes over ....

          he's not dumb enough to give the reigns to Don Jr or Eric

        3. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

          Given his diet and health, I wouldn't be surprised if he turns out to be President for Life, assuming he gets a second term.

          You may be right, but I don't think Pence getting to be POTUS would be an improvement.

    5. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

      If they check me out they'll find no social media but membership of several online forums. Most are innocuous enough but membership of DigitalSpy and TheRegister forums might result in me being taken aside for a 'chat' :)

    6. EnviableOne Silver badge

      Re: And for those with NO social media accounts

      for a recent trip to the US, i had the pleasure of the ETSA form to fill in, and fork over my hard earned for

      it had boxes for social media handles, but their completion was not mandatory, so i left them empty

      I got approved, so ....

  4. sbt Silver badge
    Devil

    Two steps forward, one step back

    Hope the State Department loses. I can see them saying, "but, at least we're not asking for the credentials anymore!".

  5. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Truly...

    Truly the l-hahahaha-and of the free....

  6. Flak
    Coat

    If you are not on Facebook you don't exist...

    apparently...

  7. IsJustabloke
    Alert

    Slightly confused...

    I've applied for (and been granted) several ESTAs although the application does mention social media accounts it's not compulsory to supply them.

    Are they saying that if I needed an actual visa rather than just an ESTA I'd have to hand over the details?

    1. analyzer

      Re: Slightly confused...

      Yes, that is what they are saying, it's one of the few differences between an ESTA and a full visa.

      1. hammarbtyp

        Re: Slightly confused...

        it's one of the few differences between an ESTA and a full visa.

        For the moment...

  8. Joe Harrison

    What actually is "social media"?

    Is The Register social media? How would anyone even remember all the internet forums they had logins for.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: What actually is "social media"?

      Hmmm, so if I made negative comments about a French company on a forum would this be a good time to ask for a visa?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        I wouldn't worry. If you've made negative comments about a French company, you can be sure that there are many, many of my countrymen who have made even worse comments.

        It's in our nature to complain. When it's hot, it's always too hot. When it's cold, it's not hot anymore. When there's sunshine, we'd like rain. When it's raining, we're fed up with rain.

        It's called being Gaulois. It's the reason why no invader will ever stay - we'll drive them nuts because we drive ourselves nuts already. Vive la France !

        1. Kane Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          "It's in our nature to complain. When it's hot, it's always too hot. When it's cold, it's not hot anymore. When there's sunshine, we'd like rain. When it's raining, we're fed up with rain."

          Not to put a crimp in your flag waiving arm, that sounds suspiciously like most of the UK citizenry!

          God Save The Queen!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I think you meant God Save The Prime Minister.

            The queen is a prince Andrew apologist, so Vive Les Roundheads!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              What a thought :/

          2. CrazyOldCatMan

            that sounds suspiciously like most of the UK citizenry

            Well, you can't be best frenemies for 1500-ish years (with the emphasis on the 'enemy' bit for most of that time - up to 1970-ish) without gaining a fair number of shared characteristics..

            And the Bretons are just the Cornish who could swim :-)

            (Kernow bys vikken!)

        2. CrazyOldCatMan

          It's called being Gaulois

          One of my brothers had a cat named Gaulois.. apparently there was a French mathmatician with a very similar name..

  9. Jason Bloomberg

    Against the Constitution

    I can't see the case going far as it affects those who aren't American Citizens and are beyond Constitutional protection.

    I've never wanted to visit the dystopian, failed state, shithole country of America, And guess I never will be allowed to.

    At least these days I only have to write this. Much easier than joining the Communist Party to get turned away at the border.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Against the Constitution

      "I can't see the case going far as it affects those who aren't American Citizens and are beyond Constitutional protection."

      Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution:

      The Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people, including all non-citizens, within its jurisdiction.

      (Yes, yes, it's from Wikipedia, I know...)

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Against the Constitution

        The Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people, including all non-citizens, within its jurisdiction.

        But those filthy forrunners aren't within its jurisdiction yet, they wish to get in (or not as the case may be, but that isn't a real problem).

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Against the Constitution

          "But those filthy forrunners aren't within its jurisdiction yet, they wish to get in "

          US border control claims jurisdiction 100 miles from any point of entry. By the time you reach border/passport control, you are already inside. If your flight from a one non-US country/territory to another non-US country/territory passes through their airspace, then your data will be passed to them.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Against the Constitution

      >I've never wanted to visit the dystopian, failed state, shithole country of America,

      That's a little harsh. America is actually 50 countries, all different from each other. We have a Federal government which tends to be a bit of a busybody, its supposed to ensure free interstate commerce, uniform(ish) laws, manage our defense and so on but like all bureaucracies it tends to expand over time like an unwelcome fungus. If you can bring yourself to run the gauntlet of the Feds at the border you might find individual states quite pleasant, full of normal people living normal lives. States like the one I live in -- California -- are physically and economically on a par with the UK, they tend to be progressive and are certainly not dystopian. (Other states....well, it depends.....) We're about as far removed from the D.C reality bubble as Europe is.

  10. Old Tom

    The whole gamut

    My social media 'friends' are a mixed bag covering all sorts of opinion - between them they've likely posted both pro- and anti- <whatever you're thinking of> comments; my own comments might give you an idea of my character, but their comments absolutely will not.

  11. JimmyPage
    Stop

    What is "social media" anyway ?

    Usenet ?

    IRC ?

    Web forums (such as UbuntuForums, or any number of website webforums ?)

    How about forums you may be registered on, but have never posted on, and never looked at ?

    Garbage In, Garbage Out.

  12. x 7

    "........... to submit a list of their social media accounts, both those under their real name and those operated under an alias."

    So if you don't tell them about any posted under an alias how will they know?

    Make sure phone / laptop doesn't have any shortcuts / favourites / apps installed,clear history and cookies and they'll never know. They're hardly going to check your IP history with your ISP to see where you've been browsing. Are they????

    1. terrythetech
      Black Helicopters

      "They're hardly going to check your IP history with your ISP to see where you've been browsing. Are they????"

      Why bother, they already have that

  13. mark l 2 Silver badge

    It another law that has been brought in without any real thought. No terrorist is going to give out their social media accounts that show them posting 'Death to American on it' . If they wanted to go to the US to commit harm they could easily create some fake Twitter, Facebook, Instagram account with pro American and neutral posts well in advance of their application to give their application more credibility. Heck you can buy aged social media accounts online from some forums so its easy enough to get one that had lots of posts already on there so you don't have to go to the effort yourself.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      If you really wish to enter the Uninviting States of America, a submarine under the surface of one of the Great Lakes will do it anytime.

  14. Blacklight
    Pint

    Frictionless....

    My social media of choice is beer.

    My social media account is my bar tab.

    Please discuss with the landlord. Kthxbai!

  15. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Works a treat

    So many people publish the worst about themselves on SM, that it's a great place to get information on them and likely much faster than something like an Interpol check. If you are posting to SM that you plan to go somewhere to protest something, chances are that the country would rather you stay at home. In fact, if you read the fine print, every country prohibits foreign visitors from participating in protests, movements, politics, etc. The last thing they want is to have to deal with is foreigners in their jails. Language can be an issue, but the person may have no clue how the legal system works in the country and they will have no money to pay bonds, fines or lawyers.

    Who wants to bet money against governments having direct access to databases of the major SM companies? They likely have an internal department that does nothing by liaison work with government agencies.

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