The US Customs and Border Protection agency has updated its guidelines for electronic border searches, clarifying what remain broad and potentially invasive procedures. The directive was published today, and it adds new detail to border search rules that were last officially updated in 2009.
Officers can still request that people unlock electronic devices for inspection when they’re entering the US, and they can still look through any files or apps on those devices. But consistent with a statement from acting commissioner Kevin McAleenan last summer, they’re explicitly banned from accessing cloud data — per these guidelines, that means anything that can’t be accessed while the phone’s data connection is disabled.
The guidelines also draw a distinction between “basic” and “advanced” searches. If officers connect to the phone (through a wired or wireless connection) and copy or analyze anything on it using external devices, that’s an advanced search, and it can only be carried out with reasonable suspicion of illegal activity or a national security concern. A supervisor can approve the search, and “many factors” might create reasonable suspicion, including a terrorist watchlist flag or “other articulable factors.”