Agents of the United States Border Patrol (USBP) have started requesting access to Facebook accounts of people arriving into the U.S. from certain countries, according to a Houston-based immigration lawyer Mana Yegani. It would seem that green card holders are now being interrogated for hours and are asked to provide access to their social media accounts before the USBP decides whether they're allowed to reenter the country or not. According to the details coming through, one Stanford Ph.D. student arriving in Houston from Sudan was recently handcuffed and asked to provide access to her phone, texts, and Facebook. Despite holding a green card for 22 years, the woman in question was reportedly interrogated for five hours before being admitted on Saturday.
USBP agents reportedly started requesting access to social media accounts of travelers shortly after President Trump signed a controversial executive order on Friday preventing any immigration into the U.S. from certain countries. While the immigration ban is only temporary, it's also a precursor to a much stricter visa vetting process that the new U.S. administration is currently drafting. Several sources previously reported that the Trump administration is already considering whether to require that all foreign visitors to the U.S. share their social media feeds, activity, and browsing habits with USBP agents before being admitted into the country. While a legal mechanism for forcing travelers to unlock their phones and share their social media and Internet activity with USBP agents doesn't exist, the agents still have a lot of freedom when it comes to granting admittance to travelers, meaning that a large number of people will willingly allow agents to go through their private digital information out of fear they'll be denied entrance to the country.
While controversial, the recent spike in this type of requests made by USBP agents isn't unprecedented. A similar method of collecting information about foreign visitors to the U.S. was already popularized following the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, the same one which prompted another huge privacy debate concerning locked smartphones. Silicon Valley already expressed a unified and strong dislike for President Trump's immigration ban and all of the consequences it entails and this tense situation will likely continue for some time now seeing how recent reports suggest that the U.S administration is already working on more permanent measures to limit immigration.