DHS

You Don't Have to Be a Foreigner to Have Privacy Violated by Trump's 'Extreme Vetting'

Have a friend visiting from another country? DHS wants to know your connections.

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Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/Newscom

Lest we need a reminder that the Donald Trump administration's support for tech privacy seems limited to the members of the Trump administration, take note of how a proposed "extreme vetting" plan from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would blow back on U.S. citizens.

A proposal has been referenced before, but a Wall Street Journal story today has DHS officials explaining more specifically that they want to try to force travelers to the United States to disclose the contacts and communications on their phones and provide access to their social media accounts and financial records in order to visit the United States.

This is not a plan just for anybody trying to move here from a war-torn country or a refugee seeking sanctuary for long periods. The administration is considering demanding (or at least reserving the authority to demand) this information from any foreign travelers attempting to come to the United States, even for short visits and even from friendly countries. From the story:

The goal is to "figure out who you are communicating with," the senior DHS official said. "What you can get on the average person's phone can be invaluable."

A second change would ask applicants for their social-media handles and passwords so that officials could see information posted privately in addition to public posts. DHS has experimented with asking for people's handles so they can read public posts, but not those restricted to friends.

This naturally would then also include potentially private communications with and private information about American citizens. A traveler from another country who happens to be a friend of yours could be required to pass along private information about communications with you to the government in order to gain entry.

So at the exact same time that the Trump administration is complaining about the incidental collection of private communications data of his transition team earlier in the year, they're perfectly fine with implementing policies that would lead to dramatic increases in the amount of incidental collection of your personal data.

Meanwhile, there's been a noted increase in attempts by federal officials to gain access to phones and tech devices of even American citizens traveling across the borders, not just foreign visitors. This trend preceded the Trump administration but shows no sign of stopping.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has previously said he wanted to introduce legislation that would stop the feds from searching the phones of Americans without warrants and to prohibit the government from demanding that Americans provide access to phones in order to regain entry.

Wyden is now introducing that bill, assisted by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) in the Senate, and Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) in the House. From Buzzfeed:

Wyden, Paul, Polis, and Farenthold say that some law enforcement agencies have asserted "broad authority to search or seize digital devices at the border without any level of suspicion" using an exception to the Fourth Amendment that covers border searches. They argue that searching devices — even after obtaining permission to do so — is a "massive invasion of privacy without physical analogs and should be strictly controlled."

The bill would require law enforcement to establish probable cause before searching or seizing a phone belonging to an American. "Manual searches," in which a border agent flips through a person's stored pictures would be covered under the proposed law as well. But the bill does allow for broad emergency exceptions.

"The government should not have the right to access your personal electronic devices without probable cause," Rep. Polis told BuzzFeed news in a statement. "Whether you are at home, walking down the street, or at the border, we must make it perfectly clear that our Fourth Amendment protections extend regardless of location. This bill is overdue, and I am glad we can come together in a bicameral, bipartisan manner to ensure that Customs and Border Patrol agents don't continue to violate essential privacy safeguards."

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  1. This trend preceded the Trump administration but shows no sign of stopping.

    TIME-TRAVELING TYRANT TRUMP

    1. Because no one ever complained about Bush or Obama and the surveillance state.

  2. Don’t wanna be a thug, don’t be havin’ no friends.

  3. “Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has previously said he wanted to introduce legislation that would stop the feds from searching the phones of Americans without warrants and to prohibit the government from demanding that Americans provide access to phones in order to regain entry.”

    Yet has changed his position on unmasking American citizens caught up in surveillance.

  4. Trump administration is complaining about the incidental collection of private communications data of his transition team earlier in the year…

    That is not exactly what they are complaining about.

    Susan Rice (and Susan is the perfect first name for a Cult-Marx embedded operative) did a bit more than that.

    1. widget: “Susan Rice…did a bit more than that.

      Try not to confuse accusations and rumour with proof beyond reasonable doubt. At the moment, that is all there is against Rice–just as all there is against Trump concerning Russia’s allege interference with US elections are accusations and rumour.

      There is enough hysteria around the Russian allegations already to start World War 4 AND World War 3. Do try not to add to it.

      widget: “…Susan is the perfect first name for a Cult-Marx embedded operative…

      In what way? Why is Susan any more “perfect” for a “Cult-Marx embedded operative” than, say, widget?

  5. Am I just excessively cynical and suspicious, but isn’t giving some agent passwords to your social media accounts basically inviting them to do whatever they want to you?

    What’s to stop them posting messages to ISIS from YOUR account, or publishing threats ostensibly from you, etc.? Hell, they can go on LinkedIn and message your colleagues and boss to fuck off, if they want.

    Does no one see the potential for harm here, apart from just the invasion of privacy?

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