Donald Trump really knows how to consistently dramatize weekends, and now his White House is considering requiring foreign visitors to provide their web browsing history, including social media information, along with the contact lists in their phones. Surely, those spontaneous protests at airports this weekend were nothing compared to the reaction that will occur if the White House continues to dig this hole.
Trump prompted the current round of chaos with a Friday afternoon executive order on immigration, which banned refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. This led to the detainment of several refugees and visa holders, although White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus tried to do Sunday damage control by announcing a partial reversal on Sunday. That is, Priebus says green card holders no longer have to worry about the travel ban.
Otherwise, Trump is solidly committed to his executive order (despite a federal judge issuing a partial suspension of the ban). White House policy director Stephen Miller told CNN that the social-media and phone-contact disclosure requirement is truly under consideration:
Trump administration officials are discussing the possibility of asking foreign visitors to disclose all websites and social media sites they visit, and to share the contacts in their cell phones. If the foreign visitor declines to share such information, he or she could be denied entry. Sources told CNN that the idea is just in the preliminary discussion level.
This proposal was reportedly prompted by how the San Bernardino shooters left (and destroyed) a digital trail while planning their massacre. If enacted, the requirement would build upon a voluntary program that’s currently being carried out for a very limited set of travelers (those working through the Visa Waiver program, which allows them to enter country for 90 days without bothering with a visa). Those travelers can currently choose whether to provide social media information, and no one will be banned for not doing so.
However, the White House’s proposal sounds like a sweeping requirement that would be put into place for all foreign visitors. This sounds like a terribly cumbersome process for airport officials to deal with, but as we’ve already seen from Kellyanne Conway, Team Trump feels that inconvenience is “a small price to pay” for national security. Never mind the domino-effect of privacy implications at play here.