A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that U.S. border agents need “reasonable suspicion” but not a warrant to search travelers’ smartphones and laptops at airports and other U.S. ports of entry, a practice that has been growing in recent years.
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper in Boston ruled in a lawsuit by 11 travelers that border officials need to be able to point to specific facts to justify searching someone’s devices for contraband like child pornography and counterfeit media.
That is a higher standard than agents with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under their current policies have been required to apply to conduct routine searches of electronic devices.
She said that while officials have a “paramount” interest in protecting the border, the privacy interests of travelers whose troves of personal information could be otherwise searched without cause had to balanced against it.
“This requirement reflects both the important privacy interests involved in searching electronic devices and the Defendant’s governmental interests at the border,” Casper wrote.