US Senators introduce bill to end warrantless searches of electronic devices at border

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) this week reintroduced legislation that would bar the government from searching peoples’ electronic devices at the border without a warrant.

The Protecting Data at the Border Act would bar law enforcement agencies from using a legal loophole to search the phones, laptops and other electronic devices of Americans crossing the border.

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are co-sponsors of the bill, and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) is set to introduce companion legislation in the House.

A watchdog report last December found U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers searched 50 percent more electronic devices in fiscal 2017 — 29,000 devices among 397 million travelers — than they did the previous year when they searched 18,400 devices from 390 million travelers.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the report concluded many of these electronic device searches were conducted improperly, without adequate supervision or adherence to preexisting policies.