The above tweet references a post written four years ago in June of 2013. The post predicted that at some point the United States would require disclosure (in addition to FATCA (Form 8938) and FBAR (FinCen 114) and other forms) of the email accounts used by Americans abroad.
That post concluded with my prediction:
The purpose of FBAR and FATCA is to …
Provide the U.S. with information that is outside of its jurisdiction. In other words, the U.S. has no legal right to the information. Therefore, by threatening “life altering” penalties, the U.S. forces its citizens to provide this information to the U.S. government.
If the contents of bank accounts is important, then the contents of an email account would be even more valuable.
You heard it here first:
The next information return that the U.S. will require is the:
“Foreign Email Account Report” – FEARBar for short!
Congress will (like FATCA) unknowingly pass the general legislation (slipped in as part of a Hiring Act) and authorize the IRS to specify the contents of the return. What an Orwellian World!
FEARBar coming to an information return near you!
2016 – An Obama administration initiative – inquiries about Social Media accounts as part of the ESTA program
What is going on? – The Readers Digest Version
At the risk of oversimplification (that’s the only way this can be understood):
1. Generally in order to enter the USA a visa (not the credit card) is required.
2. An exception to the visa requirements is given to citizens of those countries that are part of the visa waiver program. This means that to enter the United States they would simply show their passports without having to apply for a visa.
3. But, those who travel to the United States under the visa waiver program, are still required to get an “ESTA” (“Electronic System for Travel Authorization”) clearance. The “ESTA” clearance is managed online.
4. As part of the ESTA clearance process, applicants are “invited” to provide information about their Social Media handles and email accounts. (Providing the information is NOT yet mandatory.)
5. This is of course for the purpose of preventing terrorism (the justification given and accepted for all the restrictions on the liberties of individuals). An explanation of from the U.S. Government is here and includes the following Q and A’s of interest:
What was the additional question added to the ESTA application in October 2016?
DHS added the following optional question to ESTA and to Form I-94W:
“Please enter information associated with your online presence – Provider/Platform- Social media identifier.”
The question is clearly marked as “optional” on the revised ESTA application. If an applicant does not answer the question or simply does not hold a social media account, the ESTA application can still be submitted without a negative interpretation or inference. No ESTA application is guaranteed approval, and an application can be denied for a variety of reasons.
How will CBP use my social media information collected through the additional questions being added to the ESTA application in October 2016?
Information found in social media will enhance the vetting process and may be used to review ESTA applications to validate legitimate travel, adjudicate VWP ineligibility waivers, and identify potential threats. If you choose to answer these questions and an initial vetting by CBP indicates possible information of concern or a need to further validate information, a highly trained CBP officer will have timely visibility of the publicly available information on those platforms, consistent with the privacy settings the applicant has chosen to adopt for those platforms, along with other information and tools CBP officers regularly use in the performance of their duties.
For example, social media may be used to support or corroborate a traveler’s application information, which will help facilitate legitimate travel by providing an additional means to adjudicate issues related to relevant questions about identity, occupation, previous travel, and other factors. It may also be used to identify potential deception or fraud. Social media may help distinguish individuals of additional concern from those individuals whose information substantiates their eligibility for travel.
DHS will handle social media identifiers in the same manner as other information collected through ESTA. DHS has documented these procedures in the updated ESTA System of Records Notice (SORN) and Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), which are available on the DHS website (www.dhs.gov/privacy).
Do I have to answer the new questions if the provisions of the new Act do not apply to me?
Yes. All ESTA applicants must complete all non-optional fields on the ESTA application.
The social media question is optional. The ESTA application will clearly inform the applicant that answering it is optional.
As they say, “The Trend Is Your Friend” …
The United States of America is continuing it’s assault on privacy with the full consent of it citizens both in the USA and abroad. Absent a revolution, the Government will force the disclosure of more and more information from its citizens and those who wish to enter the United States.
The rise of social media has redefined both our understanding of what privacy is and our expectations of what should be private.
American citizens have gradually, incrementally, willingly (in the case of FATCA proponents GLADLY) surrendered their privacy to the Government. Email is a “treasure trove” of information for the Government. Because of the value of the information in email, Americans with “Foreign Email Accounts” will be required to surrender those accounts to the Government.
To repeat what I wrote in 2013:
FEARBar (“Foreign Email Account Report) coming to an information return near you!