Papers AND passwords, please…

The Department of Homeland Security is increasingly demanding without cause that non-citizens attempting to lawfully enter the U.S. provide border officials with their electronic devices and the passwords to their private social media accounts. Today, ALA is pleased to join 50 other national public interest organizations – and nearly 90 academic security, technology and legal experts in the US and abroad – in a statement condemning these activities and the policy underlying them.

Hand holding a smart phone displaying the lockscreen

Source: shutterstock

Linked below, the statement calls the policy (first articulated by DHS Secretary John Kelly at a February 7 congressional hearing) a “direct assault on fundamental human rights.” It goes on to warn that the practice also will violate the privacy of millions of U.S. citizens and persons in their social networks and will encourage the governments of other nations to retaliate against Americans in kind.

For the statement’s signators, the literal bottom line is: “The first rule of online security is simple: do not share your passwords. No government agency should undermine security, privacy, and other rights with a blanket policy of demanding passwords from individuals.”

Click here to read the full statement.

Additional Resources:

Tech, advocacy groups slam DHS call to demand foreign traveler’s passwords
By Ali Breland Feb 21, 17

Electronic Media Searches at Border Crossings Raise Worry
By The Associated Press Feb. 18, 2017

What Are Your Rights if Border Agents Want to Search Your Phone?
By Daniel Victor  Feb. 14, 2017

‘Give Us Your Passwords’
The Atlantic by Kaveh Waddell  Feb 10, 2017

About Adam Eisgrau

Adam Eisgrau is a 30-year veteran of Washington legal practice, government service, public and private sector lobbying, and strategic communications and policy consulting. Adam first handled digital copyright matters for ALA from 1995 to 1999 and rejoined the Washington Office in September 2014 as managing director of the Office of Government Relations. His issue portfolio includes copyright, privacy and surveillance, cybersecurity, encryption and data security. Adam received a BA in American Studies from Dartmouth College and his JD from Harvard Law.


  1. Do you have a method where I can add my signatures to the statement condemning these activities and the policy underlying them?

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