A GROUP of Americans including a NASA engineer have decided to hit back at US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with a class action lawsuit after their electronic devices were examined in what the group believes was an illegal act.
The suit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), consists of 10 US citizens and one permanent resident who each claim that CBP officials took their electronics without a warrant and forced them to give up their passwords.
The lawsuit states that this is a breach of both the First Amendment (free speech) and the Fourth (unreasonable searches and seizures).
"Searches of electronic devices by CBP and ICE, regardless of the method used, are extraordinarily invasive of travellers' privacy, given the volume and detail of highly sensitive information that the devices contain." explains one of the shorter passages from the court papers.
"The government cannot use the border as a dragnet to search through our private data," said ACLU attorney Esha Bhandari.
"Our electronic devices contain massive amounts of information that can paint a detailed picture of our personal lives, including emails, texts, contact lists, photos, work documents, and medical or financial records. The Fourth Amendment requires that the government get a warrant before it can search the contents of smartphones and laptops at the border."
Yet the number of searches of this kind has shot up from 8,000 to nearly 15,000 year-on-year, particularly since the advent of the Trump administration.
According to the CBP, agents are not supposed to examine data on remote servers, only things stored locally.
Additionally, you are not obliged to give up your password, but all you do there is annoy a man with a legal firearm around his waist, which is never advisable at the best of times. By the time you get the phone back, if indeed you do, it will have been scanned far more thoroughly than you would expect from a manual search.
There were rumours that the iPhone X would include a button to disable fingerprint unlocking, as US law does not prohibit the CBP from forcing passengers to unlock their phone biometrically. In the event, it came to nothing as Face ID replaces Touch ID on the new model. µ
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