REP LIEU AND SENATORS INTRODUCE BICAMERAL BILL TO PROTECT THE PRIVACY OF AMERICANS AT THE U.S. BORDER

May 22, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) introduced the "Protecting Data at the Border Act" to stop unnecessary and unwarranted searches of Americans' phones, laptops and other digital devices at the border. Sens. Ron Wyden, Rand Paul, Edward Markey, and Jeff Merkley introduced the Senate version of this bill today.

The bipartisan bill prevents law enforcement agencies from utilizing a border search “exception” in order to conduct warrantless searches of Americans’ phones and laptops. These searches have quadrupled in recent years, and have been used to target journalists and activists who were not suspected of crimes. Moreover, such searches are extraordinarily invasive, as modern devices store all manner of highly personal information including pictures, videos, texts, emails, location data, Internet search histories, calendars and other data.

Upon introduction, Rep. Lieu said:

“We must protect Americans’ privacy—whether it’s on a city sidewalk, at a border checkpoint or anywhere else in the U.S. At the border, American travelers should not be subjected to invasive searches of their electronic devices without a warrant. The Fourth Amendment guarantees this right. I’m proud to introduce the House version of Senators Wyden and Paul’s bipartisan bill to ensure that the rights of Americans are protected and that the government does not indiscriminately search the phones and laptops of Americans without cause.”

Support for the Protecting Data at the Border Act

“A search of your cell phone or social media account is a direct look behind the curtain that covers the most intimate aspects of your life. A border stop shouldn’t be an excuse for extreme surveillance such as downloading the entire contents of your phone. This bill would ensure that the government demonstrates a good reason for searches at the border, and that a judge agrees.”

-- Greg Nojeim, CDT Director, Freedom, Security, and Technology Project.

"The need for reform is urgent. Last year, CBP conducted over 33,000 border searches of electronic devices. Travelers have extraordinary privacy interests in their digital data, which must be protected by a probable cause warrant. We thank the sponsors of this bill for their leadership on this important issue."

-- Sophia Cope, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation

“Each year, tens of thousands of travelers are subject to invasive, warrantless searches of their electronic devices at the border. This bill would help to stop some of these constitutional violations by making clear that the government must get a warrant to search Americans electronic devices. We urge Congress to pass this bill.” 

--  Neema Singh Guliani, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU

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