Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The government might stop searching your phone at the border, but things could still get worse

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. 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...more

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