Lawmakers introduce Protecting Data at the Border Act

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced a bill that aims to ensure Americans are not forced to endure indiscriminate and suspicionless searches of their phones, laptops and other digital devices just to cross the border.

Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., today introduced the Protecting Data at the Border Act.

The bipartisan, bicameral bill shuts down a legal Bermuda Triangle that currently allows law enforcement agencies to search Americans’ phones and laptops – including pictures, email, and anything
on the device and possibly the cloud – when they cross the border without suspicion or a warrant.

Press reports indicate these searches have spiked over the past year.

“Just because you cross the border doesn’t mean the government has a right to everything on your computer,” Farenthold said in a statement.

“Americans’ Constitutional rights shouldn’t disappear at the border. By requiring a warrant to search Americans’ devices and prohibiting unreasonable delay, this bill makes sure that border agents
are focused on criminals and terrorists instead of wasting their time thumbing through innocent Americans’ personal photos and other data,” Wyden said in a statement.

“As the Supreme Court unanimously recognized in 2014, innovation does not render the Fourth Amendment obsolete,” Paul said in a statement. “It still stands today as a shield between the American people and a government all too eager to invade their digital lives. Americans should not be asked to surrender their rights or privacy at the border, and our bill will put an end to the government’s intrusive practices.”

“The government should not have the right to access your personal electronic devices without probable cause,” Polis said in a statement. “Whether you are at home, walking down the street, or at the border, we must make it perfectly clear that our Fourth Amendment protections extend regardless of location. This bill is overdue, and I am glad we can come together in a bicameral, bipartisan manner to ensure that Customs and Border Patrol agents don’t continue to violate essential privacy safeguards.”

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