The Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security now want visitors to USA to surrender their social media login information before being allowed through security.
Right, so this rotten idea pretty much wipes the United States straight off of my list of places to visit, until the whole thing is declared irreversibly dead and cremated. No, it’s not about whether I have anything to hide, it is about the fact that I have no intention of giving any of the cretins seated in or working for the Trump administration full access to and control over any of my Facebook, Twitter, blog or email1 accounts. I don’t bloody trust them!
It’s been suggested to me that you could simply wipe the contents of your phone or laptop, and once through security, you can then download everything from an online backup service. Or you could simply leave your devices at home. However, this won’t make any difference.
Because it’s not just about what might be stored on your phone or laptop; they want your Facebook password, Twitter password, Tumblr, Instagram, WordPress blog, Reddit, WhatsApp, Flickr, Snapchat, you name it. And you might as well forget right away the thought of lying and saying that don’t have any. These are the DHS, the NSA, FBI and other American security agencies; you can pretty much count on them knowing if there are social media accounts related to your person. And regardless of whether you have any of your devices physically with you, once you provide them with your login info, they can then log into your accounts on their own computers, with full access to not only see, but also delete, modify, or post content on your behalf, as well as downloading your entire history of posts for later scrutiny, as well as your contact lists.
Moreover, and this is equally or perhaps even more important, they can also view friends-only content on your friends’, family members’ and acquaintances’ profiles, as well as restricted content in closed and/or secret groups and forums, so that it’s not just your own privacy which gets compromised and violated, but also that of anyone you know, on any social network platform that you happen to use.
This, to use a metaphor, quickly escalates from the equivalent of ripples on a pond, to the equivalent of an ocean–wide monster tsunami which kills and injures tens or hundreds of thousands of people almost immediately, and destroys highly polluting industrial installations and nuclear power plants for long term damage.
Although the general rule is that you should never post anything on the Internet, whether public of private, that you don’t want anyone to see, and although you may be careful about what you post, it is highly likely that a good number of, say, your Facebook contacts are posting personal details about their lives, or even about lives of other people they know even if you don’t, that were never intended for the public eye (including but not limited to opinions, feelings, political views, likes and dislikes, loves and hates, references to their own or others’ emotional or mental issues, criminal offences, relationship status and/or history, much of which oneself wouldn’t consider even remotely serious), and which might be used against them by sufficiently skilled and motivated adversaries such as lawyers and security agencies.
Considering the principle of Six Degrees of Separation, it is highly likely that insight into the social network profiles of a small number of people, would reveal “useful” and possibly damaging information about a significant number of other individuals.
To use a slightly different metaphor, the dent in your own personal privacy may be as insignificant as the tiny, round hole left by a hollow point fragmenting bullet on one side of a water melon (or someone’s forehead, if you want the morbid version), but that is practically nothing compared to the explosively splattered mess which is the exit wound on the other side (and a personal word of caution: do not google images of this unless you have a very strong stomach).
Know what other country was formerly at the top of my list of places not to visit? Saudi Arabia. Many reasons, but one being that they’ve declared me to be a terrorist. Why? Simply because I’m an atheist. Mind you, with the religious fanatic leanings of the GOP, the prospect of getting banned from USA for simply being an atheist doesn’t seem all that far fetched anymore.