U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents must have "reasonable suspicion" to conduct "advanced" searches on electronic devices, including smartphones and tablets, that belong to people entering or leaving the country, the agency announced Friday.
Updated rules allow agents to continue inspecting information that is stored on a device, not in the cloud. But as of now, they can not copy that information or connect to an external device to analyze the content, unless they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior.
"In this digital age, border searches of electronic devices are essential to enforce the law on the United States border and to protect the American people," said John Wagner, deputy commissioner deputy assistant commissioner. of the Office of Field Operations.
"The CBP's authority to search at the border of electronic devices is and will continue to be exercised in a judicious, responsible and consistent manner with public trust," he added.
The new directive instructs agents to demonstrate a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity or to demonstrate that there is a "national security concern" for performing advanced searches.
CBP agents inspected 30,200 phones and other devices during the last fiscal year. That is a jump of more than 60 percent since 2016.
The authorities stress that these searches represent only a small fraction of all international travelers arriving: .007 percent. And they are necessary to combat terrorism, child pornography and other crimes.
"CBP searches on the border of electronic devices have proven useful in combating terrorist activity, child pornography, violations of export controls, violations of intellectual property rights and the change in guidelines marks a change with respect to the Obama era policy of 2009.
The ACLU said that was an improvement, but said the government should not be able to search for devices without an order.
In a statement, the adviser ACLU legislative body, Neema Singh Guliani, said:
"It is positive that the CBP policy requires at least that officers have some level of suspicion before copying and using electronic methods to look for the traveler's electronic device. However, this policy is still not up to what the Constitution requires, a search warrant based on probable cause …
"In addition, it does not make it clear that travel providers should not be required to provide passwords or other forms of assistance to agents wishing to access their private information Congress must continue to press CBP to improve its policy. "
Correction: January 6, 2018 12:00 a.m. – An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to US Customs and the Border Patrol. of the agency is Customs and Border Protection of the United States.
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