April 8, 2010 / Law Alert

Border Searches of Electronic Devices - What and Who are Border Officials Searching? And What Can You Do to Protect Your Rights?

More information has been released concerning the implementation of Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) policies on border searches of electronic devices issued last August.1

Facts and Numbers
In August 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit demanding that CBP release details of its policy on border searches of electronic devices.2 As a result of the lawsuit, in 2010 CBP released a number of documents regarding its policy enforcement. According to the ACLU:

  • In nine months, CBP officials searched over 1,500 electronic devices belonging to travelers.
  • Laptops are not the only targeted devices — cellular phones were the most commonly searched and seized devices between October 2008 and June 2009. Other types of devices included digital cameras, thumb drives, hard drives, and DVDs.
  • Between July 2008 and June 2009, CBP transferred electronic files found on travelers’ devices to third-party agencies almost 300 times. More than 80 percent of the transfers involved CBP making copies of travelers’ files.