OTI Joins Fight Against Privacy Violations at the U.S. Border

Blog Post
April 19, 2017

Since President Trump was sworn in this January, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been engaged in an all-out assault on digital security at the border. Warrantless device searches at the U.S. border have skyrocketed from 5,000 searches in all of 2015 to 5,000 searches this February alone.

Senators Wyden (D-Ore.) and Paul (R-Ky.) and Congressmen Polis (D- Colo.) and Farenthold (R-Texas) introduced the Protecting Data at the Border Act to address this problem head-on. Their bill, which New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) supports, would limit some of these searches by requiring that the government obtain a warrant before searching an American’s device at the border.

To add insult to injury, in addition to ramping up warrantless searches, DHS chief, Secretary John Kelly, has suggested that his agency may require that visa applicants, refugees, or other foreign visitors provide passwords for online accounts, including social media, in order to enter the United States. Requiring travellers to hand over their account credentials would not only fail to make us safer, they would also undermine travelers’ digital security and threaten their privacy, civil liberties, and human rights.

To fight back against this proposal, OTI has joined forces with dozens of other advocacy groups to support the “Fly Don’t Spy” campaign that Access Now launched this week. We are calling on Secretary Kelly to reject any proposal that would require people to hand over credentials to their online accounts before entering the U.S. and urge others to help in that effort by signing the Fly Don’t Spy petition.