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Privacy fears for UK travellers visiting US

Posted by Babatunde Onabajo on Monday, April 10th, 2017 at 15:41

Concerns grow over prospect of new vetting policy being considered by the Trump administration that will entail border agents requesting non-US travellers for passwords, social media accounts and phones. 

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A new vetting policy currently being considered by the Trump administration runs the risk of putting the privacy of UK travellers visiting the country in jeopardy. Those travelling from the UK, Germany, France and other countries which have up until now enjoyed relaxed entry requirements to the United States could soon be asked to submit passwords, computers and mobile phones. The US Customs and Border Protection (BCP) describes the motivation behind this much more stringent vetting policy as, “Keeping America safe”.


Whilst Americans cannot be prevented from entering the United States, the rights of international travellers are less clear. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a US non-governmental organisation that campaigns for digital civil rights, said: “Border agents cannot deny a US citizen admission to the country. However, if a foreign visitor declines, an agent may deny them entry.”


The prospects of a tightened vetting policy has increased interest in “mitigating measures” to avoid the data that one travels with across borders being intercepted. The EFF recommends shifting data to cloud services, deleting sensitive information before travelling as well as well as carrying non-essential items. Yet, nevertheless, such attempts may likely cause suspicion among border agents and incline them to refuse one entry.


The impact of such a policy has already been felt, with intellectual property team partner Susan Hall at law firm Clarke Wilmott relating that she knew of one cyber security conference that changed to Toronto on short notice because of fears surrounding the proposed vetting policy being considered by the Trump administration. Hall went on to add that she believes it will mean people going to the United States only if it is essential. 

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