As if getting into the United States wasn't already an ordeal, the American government is now asking you would-be travelers for even more identifying information: namely, the details of your social media accounts.

Thanks to this Tuesday's amendment to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), citizens of Australia and 37 other countries eligible for the Visa Waiver Program are now being asked to list which social media platforms they use, and what usernames they operate under.

Those planning to visit the States for fewer than 90 days without applying for a fully-fledged visa will find the ESTA form now asks for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter handles, among others:


via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

 via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

It's worth noting that providing answers to the prompt is 100% optional, but that hasn't stopped the question's addition from drawing considerable criticism.

The first point of contention: even if the new section does specify that answering is optional, it seems pretty sneaky to ask for that info on a form where other identifying details are required. 

While proponents of the change believe it will provide US authorities more power to identify threats to national security, critics also think some members of the international community - namely, Muslims and those of Arab backgrounds - may face excessive scrutiny after providing their usernames. 

Furthermore, it's not immediately clear how or where that information will be stored, or what security protections it'll be under. The fear is that some schmuck could conceivably wave you through the gates on your way to Miami, before stalking your Insta for the duration of your stay.

Monitoring social media has obviously become a vital part of preventing the world's evildoers from evildoing, but the addition of this new Q means that focus has never been more apparent.

Source: Politico / Engadget.
Photo: John Moore / Getty.