US border searches of phone and laptops  

redmustang91 59M  
5291 posts
4/11/2017 5:34 am

Last Read:
4/17/2017 7:16 am

US border searches of phone and laptops

Over the last year, the risk that border agents will search and detain U.S. citizens’ personal devices has increased dramatically. Arriving foreigners, meanwhile, now have to contend with the possibility that they will not only be asked to list their social media accounts but also provide the passwords for them before they can enter the United States.

A new bill in Congress could address US citizens’ fears of having their phones or other devices confiscated. But even if that bill passes, the Trump administration may still choose to gather foreigners’ social media passwords, a policy known as extreme vetting. In turn, Americans may become anxious that other countries will subject them to the very same treatment. 

The usual rules don’t apply to your devices
There’s always been a risk that your phone or laptop could be searched upon your return to the States — and that you can’t do anything about that. Customs and Border Protection agents can also temporarily confiscate your device to search its data.
That’s because, as an August 2009 Department of Homeland Security paper states, your Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures of your property don’t apply until you officially enter America. 

That 2009 DHS document says CBP should spend no more than five days on an initial inspection of a “detained” device, while more-in-depth investigations should last 30 days at most.

What can you do in this situation? Traveling without electronics is a possible way to combat the searches. Wiping your device or uninstalling all social-media apps may also work.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s advice boils down to this: Be polite, realize you may have to surrender your device if you don’t allow its search, and don’t commit a crime by lying to CBP agents.

Stepped-up searches
Beginning in 2016, device searches became considerably more frequent. An NBC News report cited DHS data showing their numbers went from below 5,000 in 2015 to almost 25,000 in 2016. In February 2017 alone, CBP agents searched some 5,000 devices.

The rules for search and seizure are far more relaxed at the border.
These searches still represent a tiny fraction of the total number of international travel. “CBP’s electronic searches affect less than one hundredth of one percent of travelers,” The spokesperson added that “electronic media searches” led to “arrests for child pornography, evidence helpful in combating terrorist activity, violations of export controls, convictions for intellectual property rights violations, and visa fraud discoveries.”

Recent anecdotes have been disturbing. For instance, CBP agents demanded that NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Sidd Bikkannavar provide the unlock code for his JPL-issued phone and said they would not allow him to leave Houston Intercontinental Airport until he did so. Bikkannavar is a native-born American citizen and a member of CBP’s Global Entry network — a trusted-traveler program that requires a detailed background check and CBP digitizing your fingerprints.

Things can get worse
That bill would not, however, limit CBP searches of arriving foreigners. But they may have something worse to worry about.
As numerous reports have indicated the Trump administration is considering requiring foreigners to share contacts lists and even social media account passwords for background checks.
That “extreme vetting” measure would be a giant step beyond the practice, begun in December, of asking many foreign visitors for their usernames on 13 social networks. A February report by DHS’s Inspector General criticized the department for launching this program without clear metrics for its performance.

At the D.C. Internet Society panel, CDT’s Llansó noted that Customs can share information it gathers in bulk with the National Security Agency. She called that “an opportunity for the U.S. government to have extensive maps of the civilian population.”  
But requiring people to hand over not just their online identities but the keys to them has previously been a habit of totalitarian regimes overseas. Can the U.S. do that? At the border, probably so.

“It’s not just a search, it’s also a testimonial act, and you’re being asked to do something that could be incriminating But it’s still probably justifiable in determining who gets to come into the country.”
Maybe you don’t worry about what foreigners face at U.S. borders — nobody’s making them come here. Other countries may return the favor to arriving Americans.

KItkat1415 57F
19782 posts
4/11/2017 11:51 am

I was told by someone who just crossed back into the U.S. in the last month, that lap tops are subject to search and shouldn't be in your carry on luggage AT ALL.
If all you have is carry on, what is one to do?
Thanks for this post,

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redmustang91 59M  
9360 posts
4/11/2017 3:14 pm

Anything compromising or illegal should not be carried across international borders..

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