The Brennan Center, together with a coalition of human rights and civil liberties organizations, trade associations, and experts, released a joint statement on February 21, 2017 condemning a recent proposal by Secretary John Kelly that would require non-citizens to provide social media passwords to the Department of Homeland Security as a condition for entrance to the United States.
On March 10, 2017, the Brennan Center joined over three dozen leading civil rights organizations in writing to Secretary Kelly directly regarding the dangers of such a policy.
A policy requiring passwords would expose the private communications of travelers and everyone within their social networks – likely including U.S. citizens – to undue government scrutiny. It could also set a precedent to be mirrored by foreign governments, who may demand passwords from U.S. citizens.
Requiring passwords at the border could have an intensely chilling effect on free speech rights. It would undermine U.S. economic and national security interests as well as damage relationships with foreign governments and their citizenry. Secretary Kelly and the Department of Homeland Security should reject a blanket policy requiring passwords.
The Brennan Center has previously submitted comments on DHS/CBP plans to permit the collection of information from, and expand routine uses for, social media information from travelers entering the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program and other persons.