The U.S. Courts ruled in favor of user privacy for international travelers both at the border and other ports of entry. Border agents can no longer search traveler’s smartphones and laptops without reasonable suspicion or a warrant. Any unauthorized search committed will be deemed in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The number of device searches at the border has exponentially risen during this current administration. Last year, more than 33,000 searches were done, about four times more than just three years before. Many organizations, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took notice and have voiced their concerns about the violation of privacy and rights. The ACLU describes the unwarranted searches as ‘fishing expeditions.’
The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a lawsuit for 11 travelers who were stopped and had their smartphones and electronic devices searched when crossing the U.S border.
Out of 11 travelers, ten are U.S citizens and one is a lawful permanent resident. The plaintiffs were all from different backgrounds and from across the country. Two of the travelers, both U.S citizens, Ghassan and Nadia Alasaad, were stopped at the U.S Border when reentering the country after a visit to Canada. Nadia Alasaad, said she was stopped because she wears a headscarf because of her religious beliefs and when asked for a female officer to review her phone, she was told it would take several hours.
The ACLU and EFF both claimed that the individuals’ smartphones and laptops were searched without individualized suspicion. Further, saying that these types of acts are a violation of the fourth amendment, which states people have the right to secure their belonging against unreasonable search and seizure. Unless a warrant is issued, a search cannot be done.
Jessie Rossman, staff attorney at ACLU’s Massachusetts chapter stated:
“The court said today that suspicionless searches at the border of cell phones and laptops violate the Fourth Amendment”
After, much debate the United States Discrict Court of Massacusetts, ruled that any unwarranted searches of electronic devices of travelers’ will be deemed unconstitutional. Further, the Denise J Casper, District Court Judge, stated that the searches of the 11 travelers was a breach of their privacy. This ruling increases protections of the Fourth Amendment for millions of international travelers.
Senior staff attorney at the EFF, commented on the new protections saying:
“This is a great day for travelers who now can cross the international border without fear that the government will, in the absence of any suspicion, ransack the extraordinarily sensitive information we all carry in our electronic devices”
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