Recently, officers staffing the US border have been asking Canadian citizens to turn over their email and social media passwords before entering the US.
Not all citizens. So far, just those who have Muslim roots. But they could ask anyone, and if we are to take the current administration seriously, they will soon ask everyone.
If you cross into the US, you may be asked to hand over your own social media passwords and email password, not to mention unlock your devices and give them complete access. They may go into another room. In that other room, they may use hardware and software to vacuum up everything while you wait.
At this moment, you have a legal right to decline. If you decline, you may be turned away, ruining your business trip, vacation, or reunion with loved ones. But at this time, they will not legally compel you.
Will you give your consent to this?
Good question. If you haven’t already thought this through, perhaps you should consider what, exactly, you are complying with. After all, if you are to give your consent, you should give your informed consent.
By complying with this request, you are effectively turning over all of your contacts. Who you know, who knows you. This can be used to mark you as someone who knows someone who is a person of interest, making you a person of interest, and possibly making everyone you know, a person of interest.
Note the last clause. You have every right to decide for yourself whether to turn over your own private correspondence. But do you also have a moral right to hand over the information that your friends know you? Or that they know each other through you?
When your friends privately email each other and include you, did they consent to those emails being turned over to a foreign government because you wanted to do some cave diving in Florida? Are you checking in with them before “naming names?”
You may decide to give informed consent, but they didn’t, and by turning over that information, you are depriving them of the right to make that decision for themselves.
Did I say you are turning your friends’ private information over to a foreign government? Yes I did. But that’s not all. Thanks to intelligence agreements between the “five eyes”, you are also turning that information over to three other foreign governments, and to Canada’s government.
Turning your personal information over to Justin Trudeau seems benign if you like the centrist things he says. And he has said many positive things about Canada’s inclusiveness and diversity. So perhaps you trust him, and it is your right to choose to place your trust in your Prime Minister.
But have your friends consented to trust this and every Canadian Prime Minister? Perhaps they fear a future in which Russia, with nobody left to stand up to them, interferes in Canada’s election to replace Trudeau with Kelly Leitch?
How would your friends feel about their private or friends-only messages and posts being screened by a future Prime Minister Leitch for unspecified violations of “Canadian Values?” Using software helpfully provided by Putin’s regime?
When you consent to turning over your personal correspondence to a US border officer today, you are consenting to turning everybody you know’s personal information over to every US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, and English government, in perpetuity.
Do your friends and contacts give their consent to this?
If you wish to turn your own personal information over, that is your right and your choice. But I urge you to consider whether you have a moral obligation not to turn your friends’ information over without their consent,
Before you go, ask your friends and family about their feelings. If you cannot or will not ask them, and while it is still legal for you to decline, I urge you to decline to consent to this type of search.
I believe that it is a civil obligation to refuse to comply with your country’s unjust laws.
But that being said, many people can choose not to visit places with unjust laws. If you choose to go to another place, it’s difficult to complain about their laws that you knew about in advance.
I am not asking you to break the laws of another country.
I am not asking you to obstruct law enforcement in another country.
I am not asking you to set up fake accounts or otherwise lie to law enforcement in another country.
I am not asking you to voice your disapproval of the choices another country makes about its borders.
I am simply asking you, when given a choice that another country has offered you of their own free will, to ensure that everyone affected by your consent, has given their informed consent.
And by writing this blog post, I am doing my best to ensure that when you give your consent, you are giving your informed consent. I sincerely believe that informed consent is better for everyone in every democratic country of laws.
Now that you have read what I have written, let me ask you: Should you be asked by a US border officer to “Name Names,” will you give your consent?
The whole world is watching.
Also of interest: