Compliance Management, Privacy

ACLU, EFF sue DHS over electronic device searches at border


The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for searching the laptops and smartphones of travelers at the U.S. border. 

The suit was filed on behalf of 10 U.S. citizens and a lawful permanent resident, most of them Muslim or people of color, whose devices were searched as they reentered the country after business or personal trips. In some cases officers seized the devices and in several cases kept them for extended periods or did not return them at all. 

“The government cannot use the border as a dragnet to search through our private data,” ACLU attorney Esha Bhandari said in a release. “Our electronic devices contain massive amounts of information that can paint a detailed picture of our personal lives, including emails, texts, contact lists, photos, work documents, and medical or financial records. The Fourth Amendment requires that the government get a warrant before it can search the contents of smartphones and laptops at the border.”

EFF Staff Attorney Sophia Cope said, “People now store their whole lives, including extremely sensitive personal and business matters, on their phones, tablets, and laptops, and it's reasonable for them to carry these with them when they travel."

Cope noted, "It's high time that the courts require the government to stop treating the border as a place where they can end-run the Constitution."

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