We previously reported that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has been stopping U.S. citizens at the borders of the United States and demanding passwords for access to mobile devices [view related post]. According to CBP, 19,051 mobile devices were searched at the border in 2016, which increased to 30,200 in 2017. All of these searches were performed without a showing of probable cause and a warrant.

In conducting searches of electronic devices, the CBP was using a policy adopted in 2009 which allowed CBP officers to search electronic media in the same manner as briefcases, backpacks, and notebook and did not require any suspicion of illegal activity by the individual.

The CBP recently updated its previous policy to allow CBP officers to conduct a basic search of an electronic device by requesting the individual to allow access to it and if needed, to bypass encryption or a password to gain access to it. If they have a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity or national security concerns, they may perform an advanced search, which gives them access to the device, and to review, copy or analyze the contents of it.

Privacy advocates state that CBP should not be allowed to search a device without probable cause and a warrant.