Custom and Border Protection (CBP) said that border searches
of electronic devices in 2017 were up 60% from the prior year.
CBP said border agents searched about 30,200 travelers, or
about 0.007% of the more than 397 million arriving international travelers. In
2016, CBP said it searched about 18,400 travelers.
CBP is authorized to search the cell phones, laptops,
tablets and other electronic devices of any international traveler at the
border, whether or not they are U.S. citizens.
"As the world of information technology evolves,
techniques used by CBP and other law enforcement agencies must also evolve to
identify, investigate, and prosecute individuals who use new technologies to
commit crimes," the agency said in a statement. "CBP border searches
of electronic devices have resulted in evidence helpful in combating terrorist
activity, child pornography, violations of export controls, intellectual
property rights violations, and visa fraud."
In an updated guidance this month, a CBP directive says that
its officers are only allowed to conduct "advanced searches" of
electronic device -- such as connecting external equipment to the device to get
more information -- with the approval of a higher-level officer who would
determine that there is a "national security concern" or "reasonable
suspicion" of a law violation.