CBP stepped up border searches of electronic devices previous year

CBP stepped up border searches of electronic devices previous year

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers conducted 30,200 searches of travelers' electronic devices in the fiscal year 2017, up almost 60 percent from 19,051 in 2016, according to the newly published data. The directive comes in time with the reported rise in electronic device inspection at United States airports a year ago.

The new search procedure states that individuals may be permitted to remain present during the search, but they should not be permitted to view the actual search itself because this may reveal law enforcement techniques.

The most impactful changes are that the CBP clearly defines what's a Basic Search and what's an Advanced Search for the first time. A basic search is a review of the content on the phone.

A Basic Search restricts agents to examining data found only on the device and which is accessible through the device's operating system or via locally installed applications. However, officers connecting to the phone and copying files for analysis constitutes an advanced search.

Privacy advocate Ron Wyden, a U.S. senator, said "far too many" searches were being carried out by the CBP, and argued constitutional rights should not disappear at the border.

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The supervisor determines validity of the advanced search through "reasonable suspicion", which can be anything from illegal acts to issues of national concern.

The vast majority of inspections affected individuals arriving from overseas, which past year accounted for more than 29,200 of the searches.

"Customs and Border Protection knows that transnational drug trafficking organizations will take advantage of natural disasters, and in this case an island struggling to recovering from a crippling hurricane, to smuggle risky drugs to our nation's mainland", said CBP Acting Area Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia Joseph Martella.

"This policy still falls far short of what the constitution requires - a search warrant based on probable cause", stated ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani. The number is approximately 0.007% of arriving global travelers processed by CBP officers (more than 397 million), said the CBP.

CBP agents inspected 30,200 phones and other devices during 2017, up 63 percent from 19,051 in 2016.

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