On January 5, 2018, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released an update to the agency’s directive on border searches of electronic devices. This Directive supersedes the previous directive dated August 2009.
In the Directive, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, John Wagner states that “CBP is committed to preserving the civil rights and civil liberties of those we encounter, including the small number of travelers whose devices are searched, which is why the updated Directive includes provisions above and beyond prevailing constitutional and legal requirements. CBP’s authority for the border search of electronic devices is and will continue to be exercised judiciously, responsibly, and consistent with the public trust.”
The Directive describes basic and advanced searches and the treatment of privileged and confidential information (e.g., protected by the attorney-client privilege). It provides a procedure to request that sensitive and confidential information be excluded from the search.
In the fiscal year 2017, CBP conducted 30,200 border searches of electronic devices of incoming and outgoing international travelers. CBP officers searched approximately 0.007 percent of arriving international travelers’ (more than 397 million) electronic devices (more than 29,200). In the previous fiscal year, CBP officers searched 0.005 percent of arriving international travelers’ (more than 390 million) electronic devices (more than 18,400).