Thursday, 19 April, 2018

US Customs and Border Protection Publishes New Rules for Searching Electronic Devices

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized 65 pounds of liquid meth on Tuesday U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized 65 pounds of liquid meth on Tuesday
Isabel Fisher | 09 January, 2018, 01:04

Sen. Claire McCaskill, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has asked the Customs and Border Protection to provide information about a potential five-year, $297 million contract awarded to Accenture for recruitment support services. If incriminating information is found, CBP officers could refer the case to an investigative agency, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or for non-citizens, deny them entry into the U.S. This means that anything that can not be accessed without a data connection is off-limits to police officers in a "basic" search.

An Advanced Search is when the CBP agent connects the user's device to an external system specialized in deeper searches. But they can't copy the data or connect an external device to analyse the contents unless they have grounds to suspect an individual is breaking U.S. law or that there is a "national security concern". An advanced search is when CBP is required to conduct further forensic testing to retrieve the data based on "reasonable suspicion" of a violation of the law or a "national security concern".

The new search procedure states that individuals may be permitted to remain present during the search, but they should not be permitted to view the actual search itself because this may reveal law enforcement techniques. This type of search can not be carried out without being approved by a supervisor first. Individuals who pose a physical danger to CBP agents or a threat to national security may be removed.


The new rules, an update to guidance put into place in 2009, continue to permit agents to inspect information stored on a device at random. According to the CBP, border agents searched 19,051 devices in 2016 and 30,200 devices in 2017, a 59% spike from 2016. "CBP border searches of electronic devices have resulted in evidence helpful in combating terrorist activity, child pornography, violations of export controls, intellectual property rights violations, and visa fraud".

CBP said border agents searched about 30,200 travelers, or about 0.007% of the more than 397 million arriving worldwide travelers.

The number of searches of cellphones, laptops, tablets and other electronic data across US airports spiked from 2015 to 2016 and the upward trend continued a year ago.

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