In what way will my social media data that was collected via the new question that was introduced to the ESTA application during December 2016 be used by CBP?
The data from social media will be used by CBP to improve the vetting procedures. It may also be used to pinpoint possible threats, to make a formal judgement in cases of VWP ineligibility waivers, to check the validity and legitimacy of travel, and during the review process of ESTA applications.
Can I opt out of providing my social media information on the ESTA?
If you opt to reply to these questions and a provisional CBP vetting reveals potentially concerning information or the need for information to be validated further, a specialist CBP official will study the publicly available data on any or all of these social media platforms. That will be done in a manner that honors the chosen privacy settings of the applicant for that particular platform, along with other tools and data CBP staff members routinely use while carrying out their duties.
How would CBP use my social media information?
As an example, CBP could use social media information to corroborate or support the information a traveler has provided on his or her application. This will enhance facilitating legitimate travel by introducing an added way to adjudicate matters related to questions such as occupation, identity, previous trips and similar matters.
It could also be helpful to highlight possible cases of fraud or deception. Social media data could, for example, help to make a distinction between those people whose data provide supporting evidence for their eligibility for travel and those cases where this data raises concern.
DHS will treat social media identifiers in the way was as any other data gathered via ESTA. These procedures have been documented by DHS in the latest PIA (Privacy Impact Assessment) and SORN (System of Records Notice), both of which can be viewed on the DHS website at www.dhs.gov/privacy.
Which new data elements were introduced to the ESTA application in December 2016?
DHS introduced the following (optional) question to Form I-94W and to ESTA: “Please enter information associated with your online presence – Provider/Platform- Social media identifier.”
The revised ESTA application form clearly shows this question as “optional”. Should an applicant decide that he or she does not want to provide this information, or where they simply do not have a social media account, they can still submit an ESTA application without any negative inference or interpretation.
Any ESTA application can be rejected based on a variety of reasons, and there is no guarantee that it will be approved with or without social media information.