US Visitors Have Rights Infringed?

The UK Observer newspaper is reporting that visitors to the US including British allies will have their fingerprints permanently recorded in a database with no restrictions on international use. Will this measure stop illegal immigrants entering the country from Mexico? No. Will fingerprinting law-abiding tourists and businessmen stop Cubans, Haitians and others entering the U.S. illegally by boat? No. Will this halt homegrown terrorism? No. Will this prevent wayward foreign fundamentalists entering the U.S.? About as much as asking “Are you entering the United States of America to engage in terrorist activity?” on immigration cards would. What, we do that too?? !!

We all understand the need to be proactive in preventing terrorism. However, this seems like an outrageous imposition on privacy and will be seen by the world as yet another excessively fervent and ineffective policy implementation. U.S. Border Defence as it is now known is already notorious around the world, not for an efficient and effective organization protecting borders whilst ensuring legitimate visitors and businessmen are free to transit with the minimum of inconvenience, but for the unwelcoming, aggressive, over-zealous and hostile reception.

EU passengers also face having all their credit card transactions traced by the Department of Homeland Security.

Privacy advocates, security experts and aviation professionals have already spoken out against the measures. One international pilot felt, “treated like a criminal” another questioned, “What could possibly be the purpose of keeping fingerprints that does not match any of those compared against?”

“If the purpose of this scheme really is to compare fingerprints, of people entering the US, against a database of known or suspected terrorists, then there should be no problem in deleting these fingerprints when no match is found. But it appears that is not what is going to happen. These fingerprints will be kept and disseminated without restrictions.” 

A third commentator claimed, “this action of fingerprint storage.. will swamp them with innocent data.”

In addition to the fingerprints, travellers will have all email messages they send and receive open to scrutiny. The first question I want to ask is will American citizens have to endure similar treatment when travelling abroad? With email now a ubiquitous communication tool, and aside from the invasion of privacy, is there not a security risk to having foreign powers access emails? Is it not likely that corporate secrets will be exposed? It is simply untrue that “only those with something to hide” should be concerned about this. The Observer article predicts that airport security lines will treble while the effect on trade of an increasingly tarnished international reputation is unknown.

Gut call, coupled with increased wire-tapping powers and other Patriot Act legislation, it’s not a huge leap to imagine an administration which restricts access to information the way the Chinese are. But everyone gets to make up their own minds, after all the U.S. is still a free country, for now. Read the full article here.

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