Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., recently introduced the Protecting Data at the Border Act to stop the government from forcing Americans to face indiscriminate and suspicionless searches of their phones, laptops and other digital devices just to cross the border. Sens. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., are lead co-sponsors and Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., is introducing the House companion bill.
The bipartisan bill prevents law enforcement agencies from continuing to take advantage of the so-called border search “exception” in order to conduct warrantless searches of Americans’ phones and laptops. These searches have continued to increase in recent years and have been used to target journalists and activists who were not suspected of crimes. Moreover, such searches are extraordinarily invasive, as modern devices store all manner of highly personal information including pictures, videos, texts, emails, location data, Internet search histories, calendars and other data.
“Americans travel with phones and laptops holding nearly our entire lives. Traveling near the border shouldn’t give the government a free pass to throw out our rights and thumb through our phones without any suspicion of wrongdoing. My bill with Senator Paul recognizes that Americans’ rights shouldn’t evaporate when we’re near the border,” Wyden said. “Requiring a warrant to search our devices will focus the government’s resources on real threats, while upholding core Constitutional protections for liberty and privacy.”
“The Fourth Amendment is more important than ever in the digital age, and as the Supreme Court recognized in 2014, smart phones and digital devices are shielded from unreasonable searches. Respecting civil liberties and our Constitution actually strengthens our national security, and Americans should not be forced to surrender their rights or privacy at the border. Our bill will put an end to these intrusive government searches and uphold the fundamental protections of the Fourth Amendment,” Sen. Paul said.