There are a growing number of reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is searching the electronic devices of passengers on domestic flights in the U.S., says the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has sued the federal agency for records, The Guardian reports. The ACLU Foundation of Northern California filed suit on Monday demanding that the government disclose its policies for searching the computers and cellphones of domestic travelers, arguing that anecdotal accounts have raised concerns about potential privacy invasions.
“We’ve received reports of passengers on purely domestic flights having their phones and laptops searched, and the takeaway is that TSA has been taking these items from people without providing any reason why,” says the ACLU’s Vasudha Talla. “The search of an electronic device has the potential to be highly invasive and cover the most personal details about a person.” TSA spokesman Matt Leas said, “TSA does not search the contents of electronic devices.” Over the past year, civil liberties groups have repeatedly raised concerns about border agents expanding the invasive searches of international travelers’ phones. Some travelers reported authorities demanding they unlock their devices and allow officials to review text messages, social media accounts, photos and other private information without warrants or reasonable suspicion. Now, there are questions about whether similar practices could be happening for passengers traveling within the U.S., raising fears that the government may be increasing surveillance and privacy violations at airports.