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Free Expression, Government Surveillance, Privacy & Data

A United Front Against Collecting Passwords at the Border

Today I sent the following letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security. CDT, along with a powerful coalition of civil society groups, academics, technical experts, and tech trade associations, strongly opposes any attempt by the government to collect social media passwords as a condition of entry to the United States. Such an approach would undermine human rights and personal security.



Dear Secretary Kelly:

We have grown very concerned that screening currently underway at the U.S. borders, and screening activities that have been proposed, will undermine the privacy and free expression rights of travelers to the United States, and ultimately the rights of Americans when they travel abroad.  Searches of computing devices being brought across the border can be very intrusive and they seemingly are growing more common.  We are particularly concerned with the proposal to require some visitors to the U.S. to reveal their social media passwords as a condition of entry.  If adopted, this proposal would undermine the security of communications world-wide.

Enclosed are a joint statement and a joint letter from civil society groups, academics, technical experts and tech trade associations that lay out concerns about these border screening activities and proposals.  We hope that you will account for these concerns as you formulate the new screening methodologies called for in President Trump’s March 6 Executive Order.  We would value the opportunity to discuss these concerns with you and your staff in person.  If you share our belief that a discussion about proper border search methodologies might be valuable, please do not hesitate to contact me to arrange such a meeting.

Please direct your response(s) to the attached statement and letter to me, and I will ensure that they are shared with the other signatories to these documents.


Nuala O’Connor

President and CEO