Protect Yourself From Warrantless Border Searches

Over the last decade, tens of thousands of visitors to the US – plus US citizens and residents returning home – have been subjected to warrantless border searches of their electronic devices.

Border officials may seize, search, and copy the contents of any such device. There’s no arrest, warrant, or even probable cause required – just “gimme.” And activists claim that since the inauguration of President Trump, this practice is becoming increasingly common.

While the majority of searches seem to occur when entering the US, border officials also have the authority to search electronic devices before you leave the country. In some cases, you may even be asked to log into your social media and email accounts and allow border officials to peruse their contents.

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And that’s not all. In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would apply these rules not just at the “border,” but also within 100 miles of any border crossing. In other words, many of America’s largest cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco are also effectively “constitution-free zones.” So is any city with an international airport.

While I haven’t heard of warrantless electronic device searches outside actual entry points into the US, between October 2008 and June 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the US border, according to the DHS records.

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In most legal challenges to this practice, federal courts have essentially rubber-stamped these policies. Even if you take the precaution of encrypting the contents of your electronic devices (highly recommended),…

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