Technology 3 mins read

Why do you Think Social Media Needs a Travel Mode?

As border security and extreme vetting in the U.S. ramps up, the world follows suit, and many wonder if they should have a social media travel mode.

Sherry V Smith | Shutterstock.com

Sherry V Smith | Shutterstock.com

Arriving at a U.S. border, visitors may have to hand their phones and social media passwords to TSA agents. Travel Mode could be added to social media to reduce the information surrendered to travel officials.

“I hand over the mantle to Donald Trump!” tweeted Nigel Farage, Brexit leader who, at the Conservative Political Action Conference held in February, compared both Brexit and the Trump presidential election as “the beginning of a great global revolution.”

No matter your stance on the rise of populism, from Brexit and Trump victories to Austria and the Philippines, as well as the rise of far-right parties in Germany, Netherlands, France and Greece, Farage may be on to something.

With the political validation of these ideologies comes a desire for increased border security.

Your Passport, Phone and Facebook Password Please!

President Donald Trump has scrutinized foreign nationals entering the United States, pointing towards the demographic as the main source of terrorist threats to the country. On January 27, he signed an Executive Order establishing new, more extreme vetting processes to do combat the perceived threat.

Since December last year, certain visitors entering the United States were asked to hand their phones and their social media accounts info (username and password) to the Transportation Security Administration. Visitors to the U.S. also have to answer questions about their ideology and, if in doubt, have to prove they have come for legitimate reasons.

Social media travel mode will hide your personal information from travel officials.Click To Tweet

These strict measures concern almost all countries, including those whose citizens are exempt from visa for a stay on U.S. soil less than 90 days.

Although Trump specifically pointed towards the finding of “radical Islamic terrorists” from majority Muslim nations, people from about 40 countries that participate in the visa waiver program might be subject to the same measures. On the application form of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), visitors have the option to reveal their social media and overall online presence.

“Border Mode” for Social Media Accounts

At first glance, U.S. citizens seem to be exempt from these extreme vetting measures. That’s true on U.S. soil, but at the border, Fourth Amendment protections don’t apply. You can refuse a search, but can be detained for hours as a result.

For those wishing to keep their personal information safe, one of the first lines of defense could come from social media outlets themselves. Travel Mode, or Border Mode (because it only applies at the borders) is a feature that could be easily designed and implemented by Facebook, Twitter and the like. Such feature should limit exposure by downsizing contact list, apps, and other data to the minimum.

This mode could activate automatically at the border or be switched on easily but remains inaccessible until you pass border/customs officials. Just like with physical belongings, via this feature, users would pack lightly and only bring what is necessary to their trip without compromising their lifestyle, privacy, or privacy of their loved ones.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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