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Suspicion is the key element in distinguishing a "basic" search from an "advanced" one.
According to the new rules, CBP agents are allowed to choose, with or without suspicion, travelers for Basic Searches. If incriminating information is found, CBP officers could refer the case to an investigative agency, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or for non-citizens, deny them entry into the U.S. However, officers connecting to the phone and copying files for analysis constitutes an advanced search.
There were reports of an increase of electronic device searches in airports in the US.
Privacy advocate Ron Wyden, a United States senator, said "far too many" searches were being carried out by the CBP, and argued constitutional rights should not disappear at the border.
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CBP released an updated policy directive earlier this month, which provided clarified guidance and standard operating procedures for searching, reviewing and retaining information found on these devices.
The CBP claims these searches are necessary to fight terrorist activity, child pornography, violations of export controls, intellectual property rights violations, and visa fraud.
CBP is authorized to search the cell phones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices of any worldwide traveler at the border, whether or not they are US citizens. CBP officers must destroy the password once the device is opened. The number is approximately 0.007% of arriving worldwide travelers processed by CBP officers (more than 397 million), said the CBP.
"CBP's authority for the border search of electronic devices is and will continue to be exercised judiciously, responsibly, and consistent with the public trust", said John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner, office of field operations, in a statement.