New Rules at the Border Could Force You to Hand Over Private Information

April 7th 2017

Eoin Higgins

The Trump administration may soon require all visitors to the United States to hand over social media passwords, their contact lists, and possibly even financial records.

This is an escalation from the administration's already hardline stance on border security. But there are some steps people entering the country can take to protect their information.

The new rules would only apply to foreign visitors.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that "changes being considered could apply to visitors from America’s closest allies as well as other nations." While that's an increase in the countries that the administration is targeting, it's still keeping the gaze outward: domestic flyers and U.S. residents re-entering the country would be unaffected by the rules.

But that's not enough to ease the fears of Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Wyden is one of four members of Congress backing legislation that require a warrant for any search or seizure of a U.S. citizen's phone.

"Americans’ Constitutional rights shouldn’t disappear at the border," Wyden told Buzzfeed on Tuesday.

It's a bipartisan issue. Buzzfeed reported that Wyden's bill is co-sponsored by Republican Senator Rand Paul. In the House, meanwhile, companion legislation is backed by Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).

Polis told Buzzfeed reporter Hamza Shaban the legislation is important to protect the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Whether you are at home, walking down the street, or at the border," he said, "we must make it perfectly clear that our Fourth Amendment protections extend regardless of location."

Carl Williams, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, agrees.

"The Fourth Amendment is one of the cornerstones of our basic freedoms in the United States," he told ATTN:.

But, he added, the rights provided in the Fourth Amendment have "been chipped and and whittled away in many ways."

"We need to support citizens and non-citizens right to privacy," he said.

The best way to protect your privacy is to "not travel with phones, computers, tablets," Williams said. But if you do, he recommends following the advice of his colleague Kade Crockford to encrypt your information, wipe your devices, and use randomly generated passwords.

The full list can be found here.