U.S. searches of int'l travelers' electronic devices soar in 2017

Cocaine Philly port

"This seizure is an excellent example of how Customs and Border Protection officers leverage imaging technology to detect and intercept an huge amount of cocaine cleverly concealed in a shipment of furniture", said Casey Owen Durst, CBP's operational commander in the mid-Atlantic region.

Suspicion is the key element in distinguishing a "basic" search from an "advanced" one.

The contract calls for Accenture's federal services business to recruit and employ 5,000 border patrol agents, 2,000 customs officers and 500 air and marine interdiction employees, McCaskill wrote in a Wednesday letter to Kevin McAleenan, CBP acting commissioner.

A Basic Search restricts agents to examining data found only on the device and which is accessible through the device's operating system or via locally installed applications.

Basic searching involves the aforementioned browsing of files.

There were reports of an increase of electronic device searches in airports in the US. However, officers connecting to the phone and copying files for analysis constitutes an advanced search. This external system may "review, copy, and/or analyze" the user's data, but will not destroy or harm it.

A supervisor must be present, or at least notified at a later date, that an Advanced Search has been carried out.

The new protocol is published today and it explicitly states that authorities can search and access all files stored on an individual's phone.

Further, CBP agents are allowed to search data that is only present on the device itself, but not cloud services.

The new rules, an update to guidance put into place in 2009, continue to permit agents to inspect information stored on a device at random.

CBP is authorized to search the cell phones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices of any global traveler at the border, whether or not they are USA citizens.

The CBP claims these searches are necessary to fight terrorist activity, child pornography, violations of export controls, intellectual property rights violations, and visa fraud.

Along with the new procedures, the CBP also released device search statistics from the past two years.

CBP said border agents searched about 30,200 travelers, or about 0.007% of the more than 397 million arriving global travelers.

"Intercepting illegal drugs from entering our country is a top priority for CBP", Dallas Area Port Director Cleatus P. Hunt, Jr. said.

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