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Aussie visitors to US may have to reveal passwords

April 6, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Visitors to the US from Australia and other visa-waiver-program participating countries could be forced to reveal social media passwords and mobile phone contacts under “extreme vetting” procedures being considered by the Trump administration.

That’s according to the Wall Street Journal, which also reported that visitors to the US could face questioning over their beliefs.

The paper quoted Gene Hamilton, senior counsellor to Homeland Security secretary John Kelly, saying: “If there is any doubt about a person’s intentions coming to the United States, they should have to overcome – really and truly prove to our satisfaction – that they are coming for legitimate reasons.”

Human rights and civil liberties groups say the proposals would let border officials invade people’s privacy by examining years of private texts, emails and messages.

The adoption of such measures by the US might make potential visitors think twice and maybe visit Canada instead – or go elsewhere or just stay at home.

Demands by airport officials to inspect phones, or for passwords, are extremely unusual internationally, though something similar has cropped up in Israel.

In 2013, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) started investigating after receiving complaints that security agents at Ben Gurion Tel Aviv, Israel’s main international airport, had demanded access to tourists’ email accounts before granting them entry to the country.

It turned out that the Israeli security officials were acting within the law. If visitors don’t agree, they may be refused entry  – which is along the lines of what the US is said to be considering.

Israel’s then Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, said that demands for access to email accounts were made only in exceptional cases where “relevant suspicious signs” were evident, according to ACRI.

Tourists have to consent – but if they don’t consent they may be denied entry to Israel. The same may soon be true in the US.

Written by Peter Needham

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