Customs and Border Protection Has Warrantless Access to Traveler’s Seized Electronics

CBP revealed that 2,700 of its officers have access to traveler’s seized devices without needing a warrant.

QUICK FACTS:
  • During a congressional hearing this summer, the leader of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said that over 2,000 officers have access to devices that are seized during entry into the United States, The Gateway Pundit reported.
  • Electronics including laptops, cellphones, and iPads are among those collected for confiscation at border crossings.
  • Congress has raised concern over the government taking information from innocent Americans not suspected of committing any crimes.
  • “Innocent Americans should not be tricked into unlocking their phones and laptops,” Senator Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.) said in a letter written to CBP.
  • “CBP should not dump data obtained through thousands of warrantless phone searches into a central database, retain the data for fifteen years, and allow thousands of DHS employees to search through Americans’ personal data whenever they want,” he continued.
SENATOR RON WYDEN ON PROTECTING AMERICANS PRIVACY:

“While CBP’s routinely conducts warrantless border searches of Americans’ electronic devices, in practice most Americans will still have the ability to protect their privacy,” Wyden said.

BACKGROUND:
  • In July 2022, American Faith reported on data compiled by the ACLU revealing the Department of Homeland Security buying “huge volumes” of U.S. residents’ cell phone data and sidestepping Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable government searches and seizures.
  • The records obtained by the ACLU showed “the government’s attempts to wash its hands of any accountability in purchasing people’s sensitive location data when it would otherwise need a warrant,” Shreya Tewari, the Brennan fellow for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in a statement. 
  • “Data brokers gather incredibly private details like individuals’ sex, age, gender, geolocation, and health information; they can also collect internet-search histories that reveal even more sensitive information about people,” said members of the Disinfo Defense League. “This data is accessible to any intelligence community entities with the dollars to spend for it.”