Border Patrol Searches of Electronic Devices

By Aaron Nisenson

In conjunction with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the AAUP is seeking information from any faculty members who have had their cell phones or other electronic devices searched by US border patrol or US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers at the nation’s borders while traveling internationally. At issue is a regulation that authorizes border patrol officers to search a traveler’s cell phone and other electronic devices at the borders without any basis for suspecting that the person has done anything wrong. The government enforces this policy against both US citizens and noncitizens, and there has been a sharp increase in these types of searches over the past year. The AAUP is concerned about the chilling effect such searches may have on academic freedom and the invasion they entail into the privacy of academic work.

The AAUP and the Knight First Amendment Institute are interested in hearing from citizens as well as noncitizens who have experienced the following while they are traveling into or out of the United States:

  • A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has asked to examine the contents of your cell phone, tablet, laptop, or any other electronic device, including by asking you to unlock your device or provide a password to enable them to unlock your device.
  • A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has examined the contents of your cell phone or other electronic device.
  • A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has sought to examine your social media postings on your device, including by asking you for social media passwords or user names or handles.
  • You have reason to believe that a border patrol officer (or ICE officer) made a copy of the contents of your cell phone or other electronic device.
  • A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has kept your cell phone or other electronic device for some period of time and then returned it to you.

Responses can be sent by e-mail to katie.fallow@knightcolumbia.org and should include your contact information and a brief description of your experience, if possible. Your information will remain confidential.

Add new comment

We welcome your comments. See our commenting policy.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture.
Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.