We’ve been getting a lot of questions about when border agents can legally conduct searches of travelers’ electronic devices at international airports and other ports of entry. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple.
The government has long claimed that Fourth Amendment protections prohibiting warrantless searches don’t apply at the border. The ACLU takes issue with this position generally, especially when it comes to electronic devices like smartphones and laptops. Our smartphones store detailed accounts of our conversations, professional lives, whereabouts, and web-browsing habits. They paint a far more detailed picture of our private lives than, say, a piece of luggage.