I am passing this on because I think many of you need to be aware of this. Many of you guys store photos of your adventures on your phones and laptops. You have no legal right at the border if they wish to look through. You may password protect them (highly recommended) and they can ask for the password. You do not have to provide that password to them. They can, at their discretion then seize your phone and laptop. At which point they have 90 days to return the item to you. In all likelihood they will detain you for further questioning. Without evidence they must release you. It’s designed to intimidate you. Please – No political rants. This shit has been going on since the Bush era. If you want to blame anyone look in the mirror for the complicity in which Americans gave away their rights to protect us from “terrorist”. – Spanky

The number of phone and laptop searches by customs officials at the US border have almost doubled in the past year.

New figures released this week by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) saw the number of device searches rise from 8,383 to 14,993 searches — an increase of about 80 percent — between October and March, the first six months of the agency’s fiscal year.

The new numbers appear to lower earlier figures, which the agency said contained an “anomaly,” referring to a system upgrade that misattributed the date.

Earlier figures published by NBC News last month suggested that this year would be a “blockbuster” for device searches, with around 5,000 device searches in February alone, according to an unnamed Homeland Security official speaking to the publication. The new border search figures point to a number less than half of that, the statistics say, but a CBP spokesperson could not explain the disparity between the Homeland Security official and the statistics.

CBP said only in its statement that it has “adapted and adjusted its actions to align with current threat information,” without providing specifics.

A spokesperson for Homeland Security did not respond to our questions, including why the number of searches has risen year-over-year.

Mary Ellen Callahan, former chief privacy officer at Homeland Security, said in an email that the increase in searches is “a conscious strategy on CBP to better leverage the border search loophole,” which allows border agents to search devices without a warrant.

 The agency says that “no court has concluded that the border search of electronic devices requires a warrant, and CBP’s use of this authority has been repeatedly upheld,” but while the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2014 that generally a warrant must be obtained, the doctrine governing the bizarre, semi-stateless space at the US border allows agents to carry out warrantless device searches.
Device border searches remain a contentious and controversial topic, one that has piqued the interest of several lawmakers, who want to rein in that power.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the bipartisan and bicameral bill, dubbed the “Protecting Data at the Border Act,” in an effort to force border agents to obtain a warrant before “thumbing through innocent Americans’ personal photos and other data.”

The bill, if passed, would apply to US citizens and permanent lawful residents.

Article originally published on ZDNet.