How will the social media information on my ESTA application be used by CBP?

Published on: Mar 09, 2020, Last Edited: Mar 23, 2020 | Tags: ESTA Data Privacy, ESTA Form

Introduction

There are several questions on the ESTA application form that are optional. One of these questions is regarding social media account information. This question provides Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with a point of reference when checking applicant information matches an alternative source to those available to CBP.

How does CBP use Social Media Information on an ESTA application?
How does CBP use Social Media Information on an ESTA application?

Why am I being asked to provide social media account information?

This question is used by CBP to identify travelers posing potential threats to the security of the United States. Your social media account information may be scanned for any messages, or other activity which may indicate your sympathies towards particular causes, groups or beliefs. CBP may also your social media accounts to validate your identity, employment, previous travel, citizenships, place of residence or other information. This information is then used by CBP as part of the ESTA application review process, especially if your application is manually reviewed. The following list provides examples of the types of information that typically can be obtained from social media accounts: first name, last name, locations visited, employment information, country of residence, address, political beliefs, religious beliefs, names of parents and other family members, criminal history, countries of citizenship, social media connections, reactions to social media connections, such as likes, dislikes and other reactions.

Will my social media information affect the outcome of my ESTA application?

An applicant’s social media information may affect their likelihood of obtaining an approved ESTA. Social media account information aides CBP in reviewing your application as they will be able to verify and collect more information to support their decision on approving or denying an ESTA application. If your social media account information does not match any of the information you have provided on your ESTA application then it is possible that it may affect CBP’s decision should your ESTA application be manually reviewed.

What information will CBP be able to view on my social media accounts?

The information available for viewing by CBP will depend on the privacy settings you have set for each of the social media accounts you have disclosed. If your privacy settings do not allow for public viewing then it likely CBP will not be able to view your social media account information unless they request a release of information from the company or individuals running the social media website.

How is my information processed on the ESTA?

All the information provided on an ESTA application, including the social media account information, will be processed in accordance to the ESTA Data Privacy Policy. Handling of your information is described under the ESTA System of Records Notice (SORN) and Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). For more information on the CBP privacy policy, please visit https://www.official-esta.com/esta-resources/esta-visa-waiver-data-privacy/ If you do not agree with the privacy policy you may omit the optional information the ESTA form, such as the social media account information. However, you will still need to answer all required fields on the ESTA form as otherwise you will not be able to travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) without submitting a complete ESTA application and obtaining an approved authorization.

Conclusion

Although the social media account information is optional, applicants are advised to enter details regarding their social media accounts if they feel greater ease in doing so. Providing this information should not greatly affect the likelihood of ESTA denial or approval, yet will assist CBP in determining possible security threats should the application be manually reviewed. All ESTA applicants are processed in accordance with the CBP data privacy policies so applicants should be aware of any terms which they do not feel comfortable with when providing social media information.

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