A group of top American IT associations and rights groups today opposed the proposal to seek social media passwords from foreign travellers when they enter the US, citing privacy concerns.
A group of top American IT associations and rights groups today opposed the proposal to seek social media passwords from foreign travellers when they enter the US, citing privacy concerns. “This proposal would enable border officials to invade people’s privacy by examining years of private emails, texts, and messages,” a group of more than 50 organisations and individuals said in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly today. “It would expose travellers and everyone in their social networks, including potentially millions of US citizens, to excessive, unjustified scrutiny,” said the letter. The opposition comes after Kelly in his Congressional testimony said that seeking the password of social media sites like Facebook of foreign travellers was one of the ways to check their antecedents.
The letter said such a move would discourage people from using online services or taking their devices with them while travelling, and would discourage travel for business, tourism, and journalism.
“Demands from US border officials for passwords to social media accounts will also set a precedent that may ultimately affect all travellers around the world,” the letter said.
It rued that this demand is likely to be mirrored by foreign governments, which will demand passwords from US citizens when they seek entry to foreign countries.
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“This would compromise economic security, cybersecurity, and national security as well as damage the US’s relationships with foreign governments and their citizenry,” the letter said.
“Policies to demand passwords as a condition of travel, as well as more general efforts to force individuals to disclose their online activity, including potentially years’ worth of private and public communications, create an intense chilling effect on individuals,” it said.
“Freedom of expression and press rights, access to information, rights of association, and religious liberty are all put at risk by these policies,” the letter added.