An online petition, circulated by a ‘FlyDontSpy’ coalition of 29 organizations, has been launched to urge Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to reject a proposal requiring refugees, visa holders and other foreign visitors to relinquish information about their social media accounts as a condition for entry to the US.
In August NCAC joined the Center for Democracy & Technology in demanding the DHS reject the same proposal for visa waiver travellers on the grounds of free speech and personal freedom of expression. Similarly, in February, NCAC joined a second letter from the CDT petitioning Secretary Kelly that “demanding passwords or other account credentials without cause will fail to increase the security of U.S. citizens and is a direct assault on fundamental rights.”
The online petition, created by the digital rights group AccessNow and with several NCAC partner organizations in the FlyDontSpy coalition, follows news that the proposal is likely to be implemented. According to the AccessNow press release, the measure is part of the “extreme vetting” procedures for border security touted by the Trump administration. Last week, Secretary Kelly claimed the procedure would impact only a small number of travellers.
The petition stresses that,
Such a requirement would violate human rights, create digital security risks, and undermine U.S. industry. It would chill the speech and behavior of people around the world.
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 requirement will disproportionately impact low-risk travelers since terrorists and criminals will simply evade these requirements by using different accounts and devices. U.S. citizens will also feel the impact, as other countries will almost certainly follow suit.
As NCAC and CDT have also argued, requiring passwords for online accounts as a condition for entry is invasive, will imperil personal freedom of expression, will be extremely expensive to maintain and will ultimately be ineffective in increasing border security. This is because not only can information found on social media accounts easily be faked, but because gleaning actionable intelligence from social media requires the use of extremely sophisticated technology.
The practice will also likely be discriminatory, creating disproportionate risks for certain communities, such as Muslims and Arabs, whose names and ill-understood social customs would come under far greater scrutiny than other travelers.
“Even if you support ‘extreme vetting,’ password for entry is an extremely bad idea that sacrifices privacy and digital security for political posturing and ‘security theater.’ We’re launching this campaign today to make it clear to Secretary John Kelly that we will not tolerate discrimination or a reckless disregard for privacy and cybersecurity. We invite people to join us at FlyDontSpy.com,” said Nathan White, Senior Legislative Director at Access Now, in the press release.
Sign the petition and demand Secretary Kelly reject the proposal. Share the petition on social media using #FlyDontSpy