In this digital age, border searches of electronic devices are essential to enforcing the law at the USA border and to protecting the American people. A basic search involves reviewing the content of phone, while an advanced search involves connecting the device to external equipment to review, copy or analyze the contents.
A new written policy outlining procedures for searching and seizing electronic devices at the border makes clear that agents can only examine information stored on the device, not additional data in "the cloud" that can be accessed. In order to prevent agents from accessing remote information, travelers will be asked to disable their network connection, such as putting their phone in airplane mode, before presenting their electronic devices.
According to CBP, "agents conducted 60 per cent more searches of travellers" cellphones' in 2017.
CPB said that agents will destroy any information they recover unless they discover any materials that indicate an "imminent threat" to homeland security.
The agency said the new directive supersedes the previous, which was released in 2009, and is created to enhance transparency, accountability and oversight of electronic device border searches performed by CBP.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Friday that it inspected 30,200 phones and other electronic devices in fiscal year 2017 _ a almost 60 percent spike from 2016.
Electronic device border searches have always been a controversial issue, one that has at times resulted in things like a NASA employee being forced to expose highly sensitive government data.
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that the use of "reasonable suspicion" to justify searching devices falls short of the Constitutional requirement for search warrants based on probable cause. CBP's authority for the border search of electronic devices is and will continue to be exercised judiciously, responsibly, and consistent with the public trust.
The searches are aimed at combatting terrorism, child pornography and other crimes.
CBP officials credit the spike, in part, to the fact that people now carry more devices - often several at a time - along with growing traveler volume and risk assessments.
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