Consumer groups protest Kelly for seeking foreign nationals’ passwords

A group of 29 consumer advocacy groups are aiming to solicit signatures for a letter to protest the collecting of foreign nationals’ social media passwords before they can enter the U.S.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly suggested in February that citizens of certain countries should be required to provide their passwords as part of “enhanced vetting measures” being sought by the Trump administration.

In a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Kelly stated,”We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say?If they don’t want to cooperate, then you don’t come in.”

This move is in line with measures DHS took in 2016 under the Obama administration that asked visa applicants to provide links to their social media accounts.

According to a recent report by The Wall Street Journal, the DHS started to adopt similar policies in early April, but are not limiting them to the high-risk countries Kelly had mentioned in the hearing, like Somalia and Syria. They are, instead, including major U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

In an emailed statement, Nathan White, senior legilsative director at Access Now, one of the advocacy groups, criticized Kelly’s thinking: “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.'”

Evan Greer, who serves as campaign director at Fight for Freedom, another of the 29 advocacy groups, said Kelly won’t get what he’s aiming for:

“Asking people to hand over the passwords to their accounts will make all of us less safe, not more safe. Not only does it undermine our basic right to privacy and have a chilling effect on free speech, but it will inevitably make our information more vulnerable to hackers, identity thieves, and stalkers. Targeting people for this type of surveillance based on their religion or country of origin is clearly a form of discrimination.”

Some lawmakers are also opposing Kelly’s calls for passwords. In February, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Kelly’s proposal is “deeply troubling, particularly in light of [Kelly’s] recent comments suggesting that [Customs and Border Protection] might begin demanding social media passwords from visitors to the United States.”

H/T: The Hill

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