Two days ago, California congressional Rep. Ted Lieu introduced a new bill to the US House of Representatives (together with a similar bill introduced in the Senate) meant to expand the privacy-related rights of Americans at US borders. The new Protecting Data at the Border Act, as it is called, would prevent law enforcement from utilizing "exceptions" for warrantless searches of electronic devices at borders.
The bill has managed to gain at least some bipartisan support, with Rand Paul joining Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley, and Ed Markey in introducing a version of this same bill in the Senate.
Today we introduced bicameral, bipartisan legislation with @RonWyden @RandPaul @SenMarkey @SenJeffMerkley to protect the privacy of Americans at the U.S. border. American travelers shouldn't be subjected to invasive searches without a warrant. More here: https://t.co/rdTgAiHe5A. pic.twitter.com/tq43B6JafO
— Rep. Ted Lieu (@RepTedLieu) May 22, 2019
As it stands, US law enforcement agencies operating at borders can choose to perform searches at borders without a warrant, and that includes electronic devices such as phones and laptops, which can contain "highly personal information including pictures, videos, texts, emails, location data, Internet search histories, calendars and other data."
The ACLU has long called searches like these "humiliating and unconstitutional," and filed suit against the practice back in 2017, arguing that the warrantless exceptions are too broad, violating fourth amendment rights. According to the EFF, U.S. Customs and Border Protection performed over 33,000 border searches of electronic devices last year.
- Ted Lieu