As if getting through customs wasn’t painful enough, U.S. Homeland Security has proposed even stricter measures at the border – measures which it has already informally put in place.
According to The Atlantic U.S. customs and border protection officials have already started demanding cell phone, social media and email passwords from Muslim and Muslim-American citizens entering or returning-to the United States.
During these checks, officials look at private messages, e-mails, tweets and browsing history. Officials are also looking to check financial information and cellphone contacts so “they can check numbers against databases kept by the U.S. and the European Union.”
On February 20, Mashable reported these new parametres had now been extended to include Chinese citizens – holding both visitor and business visas. (3.6 million people annually).
This is scary stuff, which quite blatantly flies in the face of privacy laws and freedom of speech.
And we are not necessarily safe here in Canada either.
Not just in the U.S.
Last year a Canadian man was charged and fined $500 for refusing to give up his cell phone password at the Halifax airport in Nova Scotia.
Israel has been checking phone, social media, and email records since 2012.
According to the Atlantic, the U.S. is encouraging other countries to get on board with the proposed measures which means an American visiting the EU could have their phone checked and the info sent back to the U.S. government.
All of this apparently falls under the umbrella of “increasing security and facilitating legitimate travel”.
I’m not sure which is more unsettling, the CIA and CSIS collecting our information covertly, or straight-up asking for it.
Likewise, the nature of society dictates that for every law created, a new underground opposition will arise to thwart its efforts.
Those dedicated to hiding their online activities will surely come up with a way to do so – it’s only a matter of time.
But for those of us just wanted to take a trip, are the inevitable line-ups and aggravation worth it?
Everyone is a target
In 2012, my friend and I planned a trip to New York City. I was living in Ottawa at the time, while she was in the GTA so it made sense to take separate flights and meet up when we got there. I flew in and out of LaGuardia, she went to JFK.
When I returned from the states a week later, I was grilled by border services in Ottawa about my trip. They asked if I was travelling alone and I said no. When they learned I had met someone there, their red alerts went off and I was dragged into the little room where all of my luggage contents were placed on display.
While at the time I found this episode humiliating and frustrating, inevitably it is only scraping the surface of what is yet to come.
Twitter: Heading to the U.S.? Prepare to hand over your cell phone. #uspoli
Facebook: Nightmare at the Border – why the U.S. government wants your Facebook password.