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DHS Slammed for Suggested Price of Digital Entry

Computer companies have joined with privacy and journalism groups to oppose an effort by the Department of Homeland Security to collect the social media profiles and passwords of people traveling to this country.

In a joint statement released Tuesday, the groups said they had "deep concern" about comments by DHS secretary John Kelly at a hearing earlier this month suggesting that DHS could require the information of noncitizens as a quid pro quo for entry into this country and potentially discourage digital device use while traveling or joining social networks.

"We recognize the important role that DHS plays in protecting the United States’ borders and the challenges it faces in keeping the U.S. safe, but demanding passwords or other account credentials without cause will fail to increase the security of U.S. citizens and is a direct assault on fundamental rights," they said.

Computer & Communications Industry Association president Ed Black said the move would be both unprecedented and unwarranted. “Setting up a system where the government routinely asks travelers, visa applicants, or refugees for online passwords is unprecedented and unwarranted. Demanding applicants’ passwords and social media information would create a chilling effect on those trying to get to the U.S. to work or escape unsafe conditions, in addition to causing reciprocal demands of Americans traveling abroad," he said.

The coalition was organized by the Center for Democracy & Technology. "Government collection of people's social media passwords would allow government officials to scrutinize years' worth of private messages and posts and troves of other personal data," CDT said in a statement. "This proposal could dissuade people from participating in social networks, traveling with digital devices, and traveling to the United States."

CCIA members include Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Samsung and Yahoo!. Coalition members include the ACLU, American Society of News Editors, and the World Privacy Forum.

(Photo via Frankieleon's FlickrImage taken on Feb. 14, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 9x16 aspect ratio.)