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Giving social media passwords to authorities

Thousands of people come to the US every day. If the Trump administration sticks to its policies, some visitors will soon have to reveal their social media passwords to enter the country, and this scandalous measure would probably call for reciprocal demands from other countries.

In the beginning of February, John Kelly, the secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, introduced an idea of making people coming to the US share the list of websites that they visit and the credentials for these websites in order to let agents check “what they tweet, cellphones, cellphone conversations or cellphone contact books.”

Secretary didn’t say how the private information gained from users’ accounts would be used nor for how long it would be retained.

This legislative initiative would mean unprecedented attack on privacy, freedom of expression and other human rights.

How this could affect you

US social media checks

Much of the information that we post in social media like Facebook is not public. Third-party access to our accounts could potentially reveal years’ worth of private messaging or membership in private groups, and it would also affect all the people with whom this person has ever communicated.

Moreover, the invasion may not be limited to only main social networks. More and more websites allow you to sign up using your social accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Secretary Kelly gave no comments on this question and never said what would prevent the government from checking users’ accounts, modifying their settings, and manipulating their private information.

The proposition would also shatter digital safety, the basic rule of which is not to share your password with anyone. To bring this law forward, the US government would have to create a database with social media accounts and passwords, that would become just a piece of cake for hackers and other evildoers. Given the statistics of great data breaches of US systems, no one can be sure that the data will be safe.

The details of the proposed law

Social media passwords

Initially the law should touch only people from the seven predominantly Muslim countries that were included into Trump’s travel ban. However, according to Kelly, the list could be expanded.

Since December 2016, guests from 38 countries have been asked to reveal their social media usernames voluntarily, but not passwords. Also the US government claims the authority to look through cellphones and laptops and copy all the data at the borders.

All those who refused to unlock their devices, including the US residents, have had them seized for months. Especial harm was made to journalists and other people whose work is closely related with digital devices.

Such practices already bring forward serious privacy and freedom problems. If the government demands access to social media accounts – the keys to our private digital lives – that would be something outrageous.

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