U.S. searches of int'l travelers' electronic devices soar in 2017

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However, this policy still falls far short of what the Constitution requires - a search warrant based on probable cause.

Agents inspected 30,200 electronic devices in the fiscal year 2017, which ended in September - a almost 60 per cent increase from 2016. U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Friday that it inspected 30,200 phones and other electronic devices in fiscal year 2017 _ a almost 60 percent spike from 2016.

Travelers can be subjected to the searches whether or not they're USA citizens.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, US border authorities searched a record number of cellphones and other devices at USA points of entry previous year.

However, the agency stressed that only around 0.007 per cent of incoming worldwide travellers had their devices checked.

U.S. border agents can inspect data located on physical devices such as phones and laptops, but cannot access information stored remotely or on the cloud, under a new directive from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

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The agency said the new directive supersedes the previous, which was released in 2009, and is created to enhance transparency, accountability and oversight of electronic device border searches performed by CBP.

The searches are aimed at combatting terrorism, child pornography and other crimes.

"Travelers are obligated to present electronic devices and the information contained therein in a condition that allows inspection of the device and its contents", the new directive reads. Under the rules, advanced searches are allowed only if there is "reasonable suspicion" and "articulable facts" to support it, and with the approval of a supervisor.

To prevent officers from accessing information they shouldn't, they are now required to request that travelers turn off their devices' network connectivity, or disable it themselves. A lawsuit from the ACLU claims the searches violate constitutional rights to privacy, but the government says border searches are exempted from these protections for the sake of national security.

"Officers can still conduct what amounts to a digital strip search of passengers" without a warrant, he said.

Customs and Border Patrol is run under the auspices of Homeland Security.

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