For those wondering what the Trump administration’s idea of “extreme vetting” could look like for foreign travelers to the U.S., this might be the first indication.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is considering a measure that would ask visitors to the United States to surrender their cell phones and the passwords to their social media accounts to have them inspected by agents. The Wall Street Journal quoted a senior Homeland Security Official who stated that this is being considered to “figure out who you are communicating with… What you can get on the average person’s phone can be invaluable.”
If enacted, any visitors, including from countries considered to be friends and allies, would be subject to these measures. Furthermore, this means allowing Customs access to all text messages on one’s phone and any private/direct messages sent via one’s social media account(s).
A coalition of human rights and civil liberties groups issued a statement which reads, in part:
“It would expose travelers and everyone in their social networks, including potentially millions of US citizens, to excessive, unjustified scrutiny. And it would discourage people from using online services or taking their devices with them while traveling, and would discourage travel for business, tourism and journalism.”
This is not the first time such a measure has been considered. The Obama administration also floated this idea in 2015 but abandoned it shortly afterwards.