US Customs and Border Protection Publishes New Rules for Searching Electronic Devices


Custom and Border Protection (CBP) said that border searches of electronic devices in 2017 were up 60% from the prior year.

The most impactful changes are that the CBP clearly defines what's a Basic Search and what's an Advanced Search for the first time.

CBP officers seized the suspected narcotics, and Homeland Security Investigations agents are investigating.

A Basic Search restricts agents to examining data found only on the device and which is accessible through the device's operating system or via locally installed applications.

According to the new rules, CBP agents are allowed to choose, with or without suspicion, travelers for Basic Searches. But they can't copy the data or connect an external device to analyse the contents unless they have grounds to suspect an individual is breaking United States law or that there is a "national security concern". This external system may "review, copy, and/or analyze" the user's data, but will not destroy or harm it.

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The new protocol is published today and it explicitly states that authorities can search and access all files stored on an individual's phone. This type of search can not be carried out without being approved by a supervisor first. This is a dramatic increase from the 19,051 devices searched in 2016.

The number of searches of cellphones, laptops, tablets and other electronic data across USA airports spiked from 2015 to 2016 and the upward trend continued past year. "CBP border searches of electronic devices have resulted in evidence helpful in combating terrorist activity, child pornography, violations of export controls, intellectual property rights violations, and visa fraud".

CBP is authorized to search any device of any global traveler, no matter they are US citizens or not, as they leave or enter the United States, similar to a bag search.

"It is positive that CBP's policy would at least require officers to have some level of suspicion before copying and using electronic methods to search a traveler's electronic device", the organization stated in a press release.