Thinking of going abroad now that the world is opening up again? If you’re planning to take a trip across the pond, there’s something important that you should know. Applications for an American visa waiver or ESTA (Electronic System of Travel Authorisation) now include a requirement to list your social media accounts.
It’s true. The application form asks for information on any social media you’ve used in the past five years – so, your Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter details can be scrutinised to give the relevant agencies a quick insight into your daily life.
I’m guessing that you don’t pose a potential risk to national security, but I can see where they’re coming from in terms of combatting international crime and preventing terrorism.
Onlinevisa.com says that, “Applicants are advised to answer truthfully, as their details will be screened by US Customs and Border Protection staff and individuals who provide false information may be denied entry to the USA.” That sounds a bit scarey but it does go on to say that it’s unlikely to affect you being approved for entry, and may even speed up your application.
Your privacy settings will determine what information the agency can see – in fact, what anyone can see – so this is a good time to check your settings.
Here are a few tips to help you along…
For all social media
- Make sure all your passwords are secure and update them regularly.
- Consider using two-factor authentication to further secure accounts where this is an option.
- Register for alerts if it looks like someone else has tried to access your account.
- Access your privacy settings by clicking the down arrow on the right of your Facebook page. When you hover over this arrow it says “Account.”
- Select “Settings & Privacy.”
- You’ll see two useful options: “Privacy Checkup” and “Privacy Shortcuts.”
- Privacy checkup allows you to see who can currently view your info. It takes you through step-by-step, beginning with who can see your personal info. At this stage, you can update any information visibility settings that you’d like to change.
- Next you’ll see who can view your future posts. Facebook remembers your changes, so all your future posts will be shared with the same audience unless you change it. Posts include photos that you upload to your profile.
- The same applies to your stories – tell Facebook which audience to show future stories to.
- You can limit who sees past posts. This means that previously public posts can now be changed so that only your friends, or friends of friends, can see them. If you limit posts by accident, you have to change them back post by post – so be careful unless you’re sure you want to make this change.
- You can block specific people from viewing your account and posts – but this won’t necessarily help you if you’re trying to hide info from the ESTA people!
- Privacy shortcuts allows you to quickly update everything as it lists information about your activity, how people find you, message requests and more.
- Click on the drop down arrow below your photo on the top bar and select “Settings & Privacy” – it’s below “Accounts.”
- The page has six sections so you can easily view and update your account information, privacy preferences, ad settings, and communication notifications.
- Sign in & security: where you can manage the settings that keep your account secure.
- Account preferences: This allows you to update your basic profile information with your preferences for networking, subscriptions, and more.
- Visibility: This lets you control who can see your profile and your LinkedIn activity.
- Communications: This enables you to say how and when LinkedIn and other people can contact you.
- Data Privacy: This covers a whole host of privacy and security settings which you can manage to suit your needs.
- Advertising data: You can control the information that LinkedIn uses to annoy you with ads.
- If you’re running a business there’s no point having a “private” account, so your settings should show that the “protect my tweets” option is switched off.
- Of course, this means that anyone and everyone can follow you, and see whatever you tweet. So keep it engaging, professional, fun, and tweet whatever you want that’s not going to offend anyone.
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re interested in social media for business rather than for sharing your brunch or puppy snaps. (Although I have to tell you that my puppy has almost 1200 followers on Insta! Not quite a social media sensation, but he’s been approached more than once to work as a brand ambassador and influencer!)
The important thing to remember is that once you’ve put something out there on social media, it can be found by people! That’s the whole point. So whether you’re posting for business or personal reasons, be mindful that anything you say could come back to haunt you later!