Can US Customs and Border officials search your phone?
Recent detentions and seizures of phones and other material from travelers to the United States have sparked alarm. Below, ProPublica details what powers US Customs and Border Protection officials have over you and your devices.
A NASA scientist heading home to the US said he was detained in January at a Houston airport, where US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers pressured him for access to his work phone and its potentially sensitive contents. Last month, CBP agents checked the identification of passengers leaving a domestic flight at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport during a search for an immigrant with a deportation order. And in October, border agents seized phones and other work-related material from a Canadian photojournalist. They blocked him from entering the US after he refused to unlock the phones, citing his obligation to protect his sources. These and other recent incidents have revived confusion and alarm over what powers border officials actually have and, perhaps more importantly, how to know when they are overstepping their authority.
The unsettling fact is that border officials have long had broad powers — many people just don’t know about them. Border officials, for instance, have search powers that extend 100 air miles inland from any external boundary of the US. That means border agents can stop and question people at fixed checkpoints dozens of miles from US borders. They can also pull over motorists whom they suspect of a crime as part of “roving” border patrol operations.
Sowing even more uneasiness, ambiguity around the agency’s search powers — especially over electronic devices — has persisted for years as courts nationwide address legal challenges raised by travelers, privacy advocates and civil-rights groups. We dug out answers about the current state-of-play when it comes to border searches, along with links to more detailed resources (below).
Original post on the TED-Ed Blog. Click below to read further!