The case against warrantless device searches at the border might soon face a crucial test. The ACLU and EFF have asked the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to Department of Homeland Security policies that allow the warrant- and suspicion-free searches at airport and other points of entry. The groups argued that an appeals court was mistaken in overturning a ruling that the searches were unconstitutional, and that the Supreme Court needed to step in to protect travelers’ Fourth Amendment rights.
The lawsuit was originally filed in September 2017 on behalf of passengers whose phones and laptops were searched without warrants or even accusations of wrongdoing. There are concerns border agents are searching for reasons that sometimes have nothing to do with crime, such as collecting info about a business partner or a journalist’s story source.
It’s not certain how the Supreme Court will respond to the petition. If the ACLU and EFF win, though, they hope to force Homeland Security to “at least” limit searches to situations where there’s reasonable suspicion, if not require warrants based on probable cause. Officers would have reduced access to information, but you could travel knowing your sensitive data is safe against surprise inspections.
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