US Customs phone, laptop border searches increased substantially in 2017

Cocaine Philly port

The Trump administration has promised to step up vetting of foreigners asking for permission to come into the US and to change security at USA borders, including airports.

CBP agents inspected 30,200 phones and other devices during the last fiscal year. If the traveler does not disable the network connectivity themselves, the agent will, according to the policy.

Under the updated rules, travellers can be asked to provide their devices' passwords to agents, but the passwords must be deleted or destroyed immediately following the search. A basic search is a review of the content on the phone. Based on that data, while arrivals only rose by under two percentage points, the frequency of those that led to searches increased at a 30 times faster rate. But the practice has drawn fire from privacy advocates who argue the government shouldn't be able to search devices without warrants or probable cause.

In September, the ACLU, along with Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the administration, challenging searches of smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices at the border as unconstitutional.

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"It is positive that CBP's policy would at least require officers to have some level of suspicion before copying and using electronic methods to search a traveler's electronic device". The CBP's figure includes both inbound and outbound searches and doesn't perform a direct breakdown between the two, though it does mention that around 0.007 percent of arriving worldwide travelers had their electronics searched by its agents a year ago. The agency's officers nabbed 14,131 pounds of meth coming into USA ports in FY 2012, according to the news release.

The policy makes clear that while agents can ask for passwords to access a device, the passwords aren't to be retained in any way.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The government inspected a record number of worldwide travelers' electronic devices past year, expanding a practice that has drawn alarm from privacy advocates.

The agency said agents have discovered evidence relating to "terrorism and other national security measures, human and bulk cash smuggling, contraband, and child pornography", due to the searches.

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