The border may be the closest place there is in the US to a Constitution-free zone; courts have held that it’s an area where people have very limited privacy rights and the government has broad authority.
Privacy advocates are now more and more concerned about how that legal gray zone could be used.
Privacy advocates are especially concerned that what’s being asked could go even farther. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Congress last month that the administration wants to ask for social media accounts and passwords as part of some visa applications.
“We want to get on their social media with passwords,” Kelly testified. “If they don’t want to cooperate, then they don’t come in.”
Calabrese said that’s an extension of an Obama administration effort to voluntarily collect social media identifiers from travelers, which he warns could quickly be reciprocated against Americans when they travel abroad.
“The government does a really good job for obvious reasons of identifying you at the border,” Calabrese said. “So if they take that opportunity to link that information and link it to your social media information … that’s something that could allow them to surveil you after you leave the border.”