Border Searches of Cell Phones Require a Warrant, Rules US Federal Judge in a Historic Decision

"The number of warrantless device searches at the border and the significant invasion of privacy they represent is only increasing. In Fiscal Year 2022, CBP conducted an all-time high of 45,499 device searches."

Border Searches of Cell Phones Require a Warrant, Rules US Federal Judge in a Historic Decision
  • "U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) asserts broad authority to conduct warrantless, and often suspicionless, device searches at the border, which includes ports of entry at the land borders, international airports, and seaports," wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
"With United States v. Smith (S.D.N.Y. May 11, 2023), a district court judge in New York made history by being the first court to rule that a warrant is required for a cell phone search at the border, “absent exigent circumstances” (although other districtcourts have wanted to do so)."
  • "EFF is thrilled about this decision, given that we have been advocating for a warrant for border searches of electronic devices in the courts and Congress for nearly a decade."
  • "If the case is appealed to the Second Circuit, we urge the appellate court to affirm this landmark decision."
"The cell phone likely contains huge quantities of highly sensitive information—including copies of that person’s past communications, records of their physical movements, potential transaction histories, Internet browsing histories, medical details, and more … No traveler would reasonably expect to forfeit privacy interests in all this simply by carrying a cell phone when returning home from an international trip."
  • "The Supreme Court has not yet considered the application of the border search exception to smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices that contain the equivalent of millions of pages of information detailing the most intimate details of our lives—even though we asked them to back in 2021."
  • "We hope that the Second Circuit affirms this decision and that other courts—including the Supreme Court—are courageous enough to follow suit and protect personal privacy,' the EFF wrote.

EFF Article