Watchdogs Question Border Agents’ Digital Device Searches

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Watchdog groups that keep tabs on digital privacy rights are concerned that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents are searching the phones and other digital devices of international travelers at border checkpoints in U.S. airports, the Associated Press reports. At least three travelers, including a Canadian journalist, have spoken out about their experiences. The episodes have gained notice amid an outcry over President Trump’s travel ban and complaints of mistreatment of foreign travelers. Federal officials say there has been no policy change in the new administration.

The Border Patrol says searches increased fivefold in the final fiscal year of the Obama presidency, but still amounted to fewer than one-hundredth of 1 percent of all international arrivals. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation both say they have noticed an uptick in complaints about searches of digital devices by border agents. The increase has become most noticeable in the last month, said Adam Schwartz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Customs officials say the perceived shift can be attributed to a jump in the number of electronic devices that people are carrying with them and changing tactics as the agency adjusts to the amount and types of information that can be stored on today’s devices.


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