US border cops must get warrants to search phones, devices – EFF


The controversial topic of electronic device searches at the US border, and whether customs agents should be required to get warrants before sucking data off them, is heading to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

For several years the legal issues surrounding what border agents are entitled to do with your electronic devices has been under scrutiny, but a sudden uptick in cases in 2017 where people had their devices taken away has spun a spotlight on the issue.

In a legal filing this week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argues that customs officers should be required to get warrants before searching people’s mobile phones (and iPads, laptops etc) in the same way they are typically required to do in the rest of the country.

“Our cell phones and laptops provide access to an unprecedented amount of detailed, private information, often going back many months or years, from emails to our coworkers to photos of our loved ones and lists of our closest contacts,” notes EFF attorney Sophia Cope. “This is light years beyond the minimal information generally contained in other kinds of personal items we might carry in our suitcases.”

She argues that it is “time for courts and the government to acknowledge that examining the contents of a digital device is highly intrusive, and Fourth Amendment protections should be strong, even at the border.”

And there is some evidence that the US government is doing exactly that. Proposed legislation put forward in April in Congress – the Protecting Data at the Border Act – would require a warrant signed by a judge for border agents to go through digital devices and would introduce a four-hour time limit for detaining Americans at the border.

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Source: The Register