Protecting Data at the Border
Published May 17, 2017 / Updated August 19, 2020

Protecting Data at the Border

Stop warrantless searches of your electronic devices at the U.S. border!

by Caitlin Martin

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Image credit: By Nogas1974 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 ] via Wikimedia Commons

What is it?
H.R. 1899 — Protecting Data at the Border Act, sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and S. 823 — Protecting Data at the Border Act, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) have been passed to their respective committees. The House bill has 12 co-sponsors — 11 Democrats and 1 Republican. It awaits a vote in the House Homeland Security Committee. The Senate bill will be voted on in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

What does it mean for me?
Currently, if you travel outside of the U.S., customs officers have the legal right to go through your electronic devices, order you to reveal your passwords, and download content from these devices. This new legislation would prevent that. There has been a five-fold increase in the number of electronic searches at the border in a single year, from 4,764 in 2015 to 23,877 in 2016.

Supporters argue that these warrantless searches constitute a violation of the privacy rights of U.S. citizens and gives the government access to information that would require a search warrant in any other context. Opponents believe that these searches are essential to protect national security.

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