Travelers’ Password Collection Proposal Raises Alarms

To determine if foreigners traveling to the United States should be allowed access, the U.S. may start demanding visa applicants to reveal their passwords to their social media accounts, a proposal that has many up in arms.

On Tuesday, the head of the Department of Homeland Security said, “If they don’t want to give us the information, then they don’t come.”

Kelly discussed the proposal during a congressional hearing when asked about how the department was examining visa applicants’ social media accounts. Kelly said it was “very hard to truly vet” the visa applicants from the “terror-prone” countries listed in Trump’s immigration ban.

Kelly said investigating the social media accounts visa applicants use and asking for their passwords will become part of the vetting process. That said, Kelly said the Department of Homeland Security is only considering this idea of obtaining social media account passwords.

However, late last year, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection began asking foreign visitors traveling under a visa waiver program to provide their social media account IDs as an option and not a requirement. Ultimately, U.S. authorities are hoping that by obtaining social media passwords it will help them identify “nefarious activity”.

Free-speech advocates said the U.S. might use the information to keep certain individuals out of the country unfairly. For instance, Michael Macleod-Ball, the chief of staff with the American Civil Liberties Union of the Washington Legislative office, argued the U.S. could ban someone from entering the country based on their political affiliation.

“The issue is what information are they (U.S. border agents) looking for, and how are they interpreting it,” he said. “We’ve had all kinds of concerns over the ambiguities.”

Robert McCaw, the government affairs department director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “The price for admission into the United States shouldn’t mean giving up your online life.”

McCaw added: “Do you remember every email account, or Facebook account, or every message board you signed up for?” he asked. “If you forgot to disclose one, wouldn’t you be lying to a federal agency?”