In a major victory for privacy rights, a federal court has held that the federal government's suspicionless searches of smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices at airports or other U.S. ports of entry are unconstitutional.
In recent years,
as the number of devices searched at the border has quadrupled, international travelers returning to the United States have increasingly reported cases of invasive searches.
Documents and testimony we and the Electronic Frontier Foundation
obtained as part of our lawsuit challenging the searches revealed that the government has been using the border as a digital dragnet. CBP and ICE claim sweeping authority to search our devices for purposes far removed from customs enforcement, such as
finding information about someone other than the device's owner.
The court's order makes clear that these fishing expeditions violate the Fourth Amendment. The government must now demonstrate reasonable suspicion that a device contains illegal
contraband. That's a far more rigorous standard than the status quo, under which officials claim they can rummage through the personal information on our devices at whim and with no suspicion at all.