We’ve been getting a lot of questions about when border agents can legally conduct searches of travelers’ electronic devices at international airports and other ports of entry. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple.
The government has long claimed that Fourth Amendment protections prohibiting warrantless searches don’t apply at the border. The ACLU takes issue with this position generally, especially when it comes to electronic devices like smartphones and laptops. Our smartphones store detailed accounts of our conversations, professional lives, whereabouts, and web-browsing habits. They paint a far more detailed picture of our private lives than, say, a piece of luggage.
On Saturday night, people at more than 2,200 events around the nation tuned in for the inaugural event of People Power, a new platform harnessing nationwide grassroots resistance to the Trump administration’s assault on our Constitution and our values. At the event, we announced “Freedom Cities,” a campaign that provides a concrete plan for the People Power team to play offense in cities and towns across the country.
'Give Us Your Passwords'
What happens if border agents are allowed to demand access to your phone and online accounts—and turn you away if you don’t comply?
“What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords.”
That’s what U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wants foreign visitors to hear before they’re allowed to enter the United States. “If they don’t want to give us that information, then they don’t come,” he said, while testifying in front of the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday.
The suggestion was met with horror among privacy advocates. “With that kind of access, they can not only see what you’ve publicly posted, but things you haven't posted yet, private messages, private lists, they can impersonate you, and even do these things on accident,” wrote Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, on his website. “This kind of access is profoundly invasive.” ---MORE---