Rights groups are calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) not to demand the social media passwords of foreigners entering the United States, claiming it’s a violation of human rights and creates serious cybersecurity risks.
In a new campaign dubbed "Fly Don't Spy", groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Open Technology Institute reference a report from earlier this month that the DHS is considering a range of vetting options for people coming to the US.
These include forcing them to provide passwords to their social media accounts as well as smartphone contacts.
According to reports, the department – which currently asks visa applicants to voluntarily hand over access credentials – would require log-ins not just for visitors from countries deemed high-risk like Syria but ‘allies’ such as the UK.
However, the 29 groups lobbying the public to stand up to DHS secretary John Kelly over the proposal argued: “This would violate the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and create numerous cybersecurity risks for all people.”
“Log-in access to social media accounts provides intimate information on a person as well as their connections. If you use a social media account to log in to other websites, it may also create a detailed dossier that broadly maps your entire digital life,” the petition notes.
“The requirement will disproportionately impact low-risk travellers since terrorists and criminals will simply evade these requirements by using different accounts and devices. US citizens will also feel the impact, as other countries will almost certainly follow suit.”
The rights groups are almost certainly correct about the last point, given that the European Parliament last month voted to end visa-free travel for US tourists to the EU after Washington refused the same for citizens of five EU countries.