Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bad Form

The International Herald Tribune reports that European travelers to the United States will soon have to fill out a new electronic form, known as the Electronic System of Travel Authorization, which replaces the paper questionnaires that visitors once merely filled out on the plane.

Although customs and border patrol officials insist that our traditional allies continue to be eligible for "visa-free" travel to our country, many are suspicious of this new form of security that may cause other nations to retaliate and require U.S. citizens to undergo similar additional layers of bureaucracy when they are abroad.

Note that the list of questions (click to enlarge) includes a vague item about "moral turpitude" that may put gay or lesbian visitors in an uncomfortable position, particularly if their home countries criminalize expressions of their sexual identities. The PowerPoint presentation that provides screenshots of the new online form also includes a generous disclaimer page.

As Virtualpolitic pal Chris Soghoian has repeatedly noted, the use of online forms by government agencies often doesn't come with adequate protections against phishing and security breaches. For example, Soghoian has pointed out problems with TSA online forms and also with forms from the IRS.

As to the procedures that are already in place for visitors to the U.S., the government provides online videos in a number of languages to explain the rules for border-crossing.

While you are at it, you may also want to check out one of the more bizarre government websites: It includes links to the Biometrics Catalog and images to use in press coverage.

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