A group of individuals represented by the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts challenging the “searches and seizures of smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices” at the borders. The complaint alleges that such searches “absent a warrant supported by probable cause and without particularly describing the information to be searched” are a violation of the First and Fourth [text, PDFs] Amendments to the US Constitution. The plaintiffs in the case were ordinary citizens or permanent residents whose electronic devices were seized and searched, and in some cases were retained by federal authorities for months before being returned. The defendants in the case include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement . The crux of the complaint is that modern electronic devices hold massive amounts of personal information such as political or social opinions, and sensitive medical, legal and financial information. Additionally, electronic devices in this age carry a large number of intimate photographs and messages. Thus, the complaint alleges that.
Concern regarding searches and seizures of electronic devices at the borders is rising and lawmakers have recognized such concerns. In April, a group of US Senators introduced [JURIST report] a bipartisan bill to require government agents to get a warrant when searching electronic devices of US citizens at the border. Privacy in general has been a contentious topic around the world in the past two years. In June, Japan’s parliament passed a controversial “anti-conspiracy” bill aimed at improving security and combating terrorism that critics claim will violate privacy rights. In May, Germany’s Federal Court of Justice [official website] ruled that government websites can store personal data as long as they provide adequate justification. The same month, the Nevada Senate[official website] approved a bill requiring Internet providers to disclose what types of personal information they collect from users. In April, JURIST Guest Columnist Andreas Kuersten discussed the flawed reasoning of a legislation signed earlier this year that allows Internet Service Providers to sell customers’ personal information without their consent. Also in April, a group of US Senators introduced a bipartisan bill to require government agents to get a warrant when searching electronic devices of US citizens at the border.
As carried in JURIST on 15.9.17