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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Enter US, give us your password: ISOC, 50 others petition UN

The Internet Society (ISOC) has joined forces with some 50 other civil society organisations and trade associations to petition the United Nations (UN) on social media and device collection at the United States borders, reports ITRealms.

The petition sent to the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration, and UN experts, have been garnering supports with the latest being ISOC.

Confirming this, President and chief executive officer, ISOC, Ms Kathryn Brown, said the group has to speak out against proposed password disclosure requirements at US borders.
The petition which has over 90 individual experts supporting it, ITRealms gathered, showed experts are deeply concerned that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may require individuals to disclose their social media account passwords as a condition of entry into the United States.
ITRealms gathered that a few days ago, the new U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security indicated that the U.S. government is considering such a policy as an element of border screening, but ISOC in condemning this plan, said it believes it will undermine Internet security.
“We signed onto this statement because we believe that this policy would gravely undermine Internet security and would represent an alarming intrusion on individuals’ rights of expression, opinion and privacy.   We also worry that other nations may replicate this approach, leading to a cascading decline in Internet security for users across the globe,” Brown said.
The Internet Society, she said, is a global organization that is comprised of staff, chapters, members and volunteers around the world who all share a deep commitment to the ability of individuals to communicate freely and securely via the Internet.
“Coercive action by a government to demand user passwords is contrary to our values and creates unacceptable risks to our community's ability to travel and communicate freely. We remain committed to opposing policies such as this that would compromise global Internet security and place our community’s security and privacy in jeopardy,” ISOC said.
However, ITRealms further gathered that in a joint letter sent to High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration, and UN experts, the petitioners urged these authorities to investigate reports that the United States is demanding that visitors provide access to their electronic devices as well as passcodes to those devices and online accounts.

They also decried that these practices persist in violation of the United States’ human rights treaty obligations, and action is needed to hold the US government accountable for the protection of human rights at US borders, which are not zones of exclusion or exception.
Digital devices that most people carry, they said in their pockets or bags grant access to “our social media accounts and contain a dizzying array of personal information.”

They insisted that today, these devices multi-task as primary means of “voice and text communication, our cameras, fitness trackers, sleep monitors, banking portals, home shopping networks, and the source of the answers for any questions that may come up in casual conversation.”

Further, the signatories asked the UN authorities to raise the issues communicated in the petition with the US government, in particular that it is failing to conform with its commitments to protect human rights by demanding access to electronic devices and social media accounts as a prerequisite for entry into the country.

The signatories also requested that an inquiry be conducted to more comprehensively investigate these alarming incidents and policies, as well as a country visit to the US to observe and monitor the procedures at the border controls, to serve as the basis for the inquiry.

Nonye Dom/GEE
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