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Ras Albert Williams

Can we trust US consular staff with our passwords and pin numbers?

My response to the USA’s proposed password disclosure requirements as a criterion to receive visas to enter that country.
Privacy on the Internet, is the number one concern of technologist. If your privacy is not assured, then there is no point in  using social media, for instance for nothing but browsing, as was the case in Web 1.0. Computer scientists over the last two decades, since the personal computer became commonplace, have devised numerous ways to keep our content safe. From introducing usernames and passwords to, two-factor authorization and biometric identification.  There are numerous protocols that protect our data in transit. You may have heard of: secure E-mail ( PGP and S/MIME); Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocols; Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and  secure IP (IPSec); Secure HTTP (S-HTTP), DNDSEC, SSH to name a few, that encrypts, otherwise clear-text that could be easily read by snoopers and eavesdroppers using simple tools available on the web.
Yet, there is still a threat from people you may or may not know, who want access to your private data. Cyber-stalkers and hacker may hold you ransom. Yet still any giant technology company is a target for  thieves who steal company data and sell them on to buyers on the dark web.
Visas requirements 
So when we hear that a government intends to make the surrendering of your usernames and passwords of your email and social media accounts as a condition for entry to that country. We find this wholly unacceptable.

10527903_589996304444167_1141809396204252645_nWhat you have to realise, that this measure is not only a concern for those applying for a USA visas. For instance, the privacy of your communication to a friend or family of yours is also compromised.Texting, email and messaging as well as the use of various social media platforms has become a way of life in this 21st century living. Digital technologies, like the worldwide Web and the Internet, have radically transformed how we live, learn, do business and recreate and in some sense, the vulnerability that users already face is now being exacerbated by the notion that a law-abiding citizens should be confronted by a such draconian and authoritarian  action.pexels-photo-12829
You will be asked to give your passwords to your phone, social media etc (Compliments: pexels.com)


It behooves me to ask you, my friends to not be silent on this matter . If such a governmental policy is allowed to proceed unchallenged, this opens the way for other so-called democratic governments to do likewise.
This is the behavior of a dictatorship such as obtains in North Korea, and one-party states like China. Where these regimes are afraid to let free-thinking exist.

Imagine that you are a businessman going to the states for a few days to a conference, or a family going to a wedding a musician going on a tour through the states, would you be happy to surrender your passport, er…sorry, password, to obtain a visas to the states?
The inevitable consequence of this policy should it go ahead, is a massive loss of economy both in and out of the USA  many people will look for alternative ways to spend their money, not at the expense of their privacy.You know as well as I do, that when we perceive that a medium is private, that sensitive information, that is not the business of anyone except the person to whom it was intended, maybe communicated.Having said this, I call on the giant, technology companies such as: Amazon, ebay, Google,
Microsoft, Yahoo, Samsung, Cisco, Badoo, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, etc, use their enormous wealth and resources to protect their customers from such blatant civic abuse. We have heard of stories of governments wanting Facebook and Apple to allow access to to certain person’s account.Call to actionSo we need clarity on this. We need to establish a separation between someone who is under surveillance and warrants a suspension of that person’s liberties, and an ordinary citizen going about their lawful business.Therefore, I call on civil society to get behind the cause and echo this message loud and clear on all their social media platforms, and even beyond. There is a lot more at stake here than what is initially being proposed.If you care about human rights and justice, you will act Now.

This is unconstitutional and an affront to our democratic values. Nay a crime against humanity.

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Albert Williams BSc (Hons) Comp & IT (Open), MBCS, is a postgraduate of the Open University working towards a MSc Technology Management by 2019

I am a member of the Internet society, The Chartered Institute for IT, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Radio Society of Great Britain, Author’s Licensing and Collection Agency, researchgate.net and Academia.edu

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