If the feds want to keep searching people’s digital devices at airports and border crossings, they’d better start getting warrants, the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation say.
The civil liberties groups sued the Department of Homeland Security Wednesday in Boston federal court on behalf of 10 U.S. citizens and a green card holder who’d had their devices searched while entering the United States. Those searches are unconstitutional without a warrant based on probable cause, they argue.
“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,” EFF staff attorney Sophia Cope said in a statement. “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.”
The number of such searches has dramatically increased in recent years: Customs and Border Protection conducted nearly 15,000 such searches in the first half of fiscal 2017, compared to 19,033 in all of 2016 and just 8,503 in 2015, the groups say.