Passwords for social media accounts could be required for some to enter country

A password may soon be required to enter the country — the applicant’s Facebook password, that is. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggested the measure to the House Homeland Security Committee today during talks around Trump’s embattled executive order on immigration.

“We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say? If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in,” he told the committee, NBC News reported.

This was specifically in reference to the seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya — immigrants and refugees from which the EO attempts to prevent from entering the US. He added that this was not an official policy decision, but to suggest it on the record like this indicates a certain level of confidence in the possibility.

Using social media as part of the verification process isn’t a new idea: in fact, the Obama administration proposed an optional field on some common forms in which to put “information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.” But although it was discussed, requiring passwords ended up not being a part of it.

Perhaps because there’s no real reason to dive deep into a social media profile. Kelly is quoted as saying later in the hearing that “When someone says, ‘I’m from this town and this was my occupation,’ [officials] essentially have to take the word of the individual.”

Of course, it’s incredibly easy to fake social media accounts on any platform, or claim ownership of a legitimate one. As a bit of context social media is useful, but as soon as you try to extract any real facts from it, you’re grasping at straws.

And that’s aside from the privacy and security problems associated with making someone volunteer their password, which are obvious enough that I don’t feel the need to elaborate on them.

The fate of the EO is still up in the air, but regardless of how things play out, let’s hope this suggestion doesn’t take effect.