US senator reveals how US Customs has amassed data from Americans’ devices

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Every 12 months, 1000’s of Americans have their telephones and different devices searched on the border, earlier than they journey overseas. Now, a US senator has Revealed that when it searches these devices, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) downloads their contents — which might embody textual content messages, photos, and different private info — into a large database the place it is all held for 15 years. This database is accessible to 1000’s of Department of Homeland Security staff.

In a letter to CBP, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, urged the company “to focus on suspected criminals and security threats, rather than allowing indiscriminate rifling through Americans’ private records without suspicion of a crime.”

He added, “Such changes will better protect national security and respect the rights of Americans who travel overseas for business and leisure.”

Wyden stated that his workplace realized of “egregious” CBP practices throughout company briefings. The company, he stated, is “pressuring travelers to unlock their electronic devices without adequately informing them of their rights.” After that, content material is downloaded to a central database that is accessible to roughly 2,700 DHS staff for principally any purpose. When a authorities worker accesses that database, they are not required to document why they’re doing so.

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CBP has but to inform Wyden the whole variety of Americans whose data has been saved on this database, or how often it is accessed. In June, nonetheless, the company did estimate that it saves data from fewer than 10,000 telephones per 12 months.

While regulation enforcement sometimes must get a warrant to conduct such searches, CBP has used a “border search” loophole that enables its officers to go looking any worldwide traveler’s cellphone or laptop computer.

However, Wyden famous that US vacationers have thus far stopped these searches by holding their machine data encrypted or refusing to provide the CBP their password.

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“CBP has never attempted to issue a fine against anyone for refusing to disclose their password or to unlock their phone or laptop,” the senator wrote. “Indeed, the agency has not even issued a written policy or procedure guidance related to the assessment of fines in this situation.”

Wyden requested the CBP to submit a written plan by Oct. 31 for addressing these points.

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