Border Agents Can Search and Seize Any Electronic Device
By Juergen T Steinmetz
Published January 11, 2018
As Kenya’s national carrier, Kenya Airways, starts selling tickets on January 11, 2018 for its inaugural daily flight to New York in the United States of America, travellers to and from USA can as well forget the term ‘privacy’ as far as access to their electronic devices, including cellphones, tablets and laptops, is concerned.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, US border authorities searched a record number of cellphones and other devices at US points of entry in 2017 to prevent threats to national security and catch smugglers.
Of the 30 200 phones searched, 19 051 were of people leaving the USA. More than 80% of the devices belonged to foreigners or legal permanent residents, with fewer than one in five owned by a US citizen.
Yes, US Customs and Border Protection agency may be interested in mobile phones by anyone entering or leaving the United States of America.
A new policy outlining procedures for searching and seizing electronic devices at the border says that agents can only examine information stored on the device, not additional data in “the cloud” that can be accessed.
While agents can ask for passwords to access a device, the policy says, the passwords aren’t to be retained.
It sets forth standards for agents to do an ‘advanced search’, which involves connecting the device to a computer to retrieve and copy information. Under the rules, advanced searches are allowed only if there is ‘reasonable suspicion’ and ‘articulable facts’ to support it, and with the approval of a supervisor. The standards for more in-depth searches hadn’t been spelled out before. And no such standard exists for basic searches.
The new policy requires border agents to notify a traveller when his or her device is to be searched unless telling the traveler would harm ‘national security, law enforcement, officer safety, or other operational interests’.
John Kelly, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary who left the agency in 2017 to become President Donald J Trump’s chief of staff, said during a June Senate hearing that such searches aren’t routine and are conducted only when necessary.Kelly suggested that border agents may even ask travellers for their social media passwords and access to their internet browsers.
The Trump administration has promised to step up vetting of foreigners asking for permission to come into the USA and to change security at US borders, including airports.
An eTurboNews article.