Break from the US Border?

Conferences could start to quit the US if ‘extreme vetting’ is brought in, according to one international law firm that has been advising its lawyers  not to comply with US border control requests for social media passwords.

Visitors to the US, including from allied countries such as Germany, France and the UK may be asked to hand in their passwords or be denied entry to the US under new ‘extreme vetting’ policies being considered by the Trump administration.

Visitors could be forced to reveal personal data, as well as disclose financial information, as well as being faced with detailed ideological questioning, according the Wall Street Journal, which has quoted officials in the new Trump administration.

While US citizens have established rights against unlawful searches at the border, the extent to which foreign travellers can resist requests to hand over personal information is not so clear.

Electronic devices of all kinds could be examined at the US border and if a foreign visitor refuses to unlock their digital device, provide a password, or provide social media information, entry may be denied.

Law firm Clarke Willmott has advised its lawyers not to comply with US customs and border control requests for social media information, according to the Guardian newspaper which quoted the firm’s head of technology and intellectual property, team partner Susan Hall on the risks of obviating any such new rules: “Given the degree of discretion given to US Border forces by relevant legislation, it appears to me quite clear that all options – choosing a burner phone, using heavy encryption with the password only being supplied after the traveller has entered the US, and changed prior to leaving and so forth – risk creating a catch-22 situation in which any attempt to mitigate the effects of the procedures are likely to be interpreted as ‘probable cause’ for searching.

“In the short to medium term, I think the answer is going to be avoiding all but absolutely essential travel to the United States.”

Hall added: “I’m aware of at least one conference on cyber security and ethical hacking which switched to Toronto at short notice because of these concerns.” 

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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