The Internet Society, along with 50 organizations and trade associations and nearly 90 individual experts have written a statement to express deep concerns over the proposal that U.S. Department of Homeland Security may require individuals to disclose their social media account passwords as a condition of entry into the United States. Last week, the new U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security indicated that the U.S. government is considering such a policy as an element of border screening.
Part of the joint statement reads
This proposal would enable border officials to invade people’s privacy by examining years of private emails, texts, and messages. It would expose travelers and everyone in their social networks, including potentially millions of U.S. citizens, to excessive, unjustified scrutiny. And it would discourage people from using online services or taking their devices with them while traveling, and would discourage travel for business, tourism, and journalism.
Demands from U.S. border officials for passwords to social media accounts will also set a precedent that may ultimately affect all travelers around the world. This demand is likely to be mirrored by foreign governments, which will demand passwords from U.S. citizens when they seek entry to foreign countries. This would compromise U.S. economic security, cybersecurity, and national security, as well as damage the U.S.’s relationships with foreign governments and their citizenry.
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. Freedom of expression and press rights, access to information, rights of association, and religious liberty are all put at risk by these policies.
The first rule of online security is simple: Do not share your passwords. No government agency should undermine security, privacy, and other rights with a blanket policy of demanding passwords from individuals.
Read the full “Coalition Condemns DHS Proposal to Demand Passwords to Enter the U.S.” statement here