Since the beginning of this year the US government has required people visiting the USA to preregister their intent to travel via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This is a website. This does not need to be done once per trip, but once every two years or so. I often travel to the USA at short notice so reminded by a facebook status I decided to give registering a go. So the first thing I did was to use trusty google to search for ESTA. Here is a screenshot of the results:
I suggest you read it closely. It says two things:
- The data you are submitting, don't expect us to keep it private. You give us the right to do what we wont, don't expect data protection you weird European types.
- If you access this system and you are not allowed to expect the FBI (or similar) to appear at your door with an arrest warrant.
The second is alarming. How do I know if I am authorized or not? This is FAIL number three. I get told I need authorization, but no one has told me whether I have authorization or not. I found a public website on the Internet, the official ESTA system, which I need to use to enter the USA, so I am probably authorized, but they have this big scary warning and often ignorance is no defence in a court of law. In fact given the info you provide them when using this site it would be very easy for them to pick you up if you are not authorized.
I wonder if I'm being too paranoid.