Lawmakers introduce bill to limit data collection at border crossings

Lawmakers introduce bill to limit data collection at border crossings
© Greg Nash

Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress needs to step up on crypto, or Biden might crush it Democrats face growing storm over IRS reporting provision Best shot at narrowing racial homeownership gap at risk, progressives say MORE (D-Ore.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDemocrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations McConnell vows GOP won't help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer 'tantrum' MORE (R-Ky.) introduced legislation Thursday that would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching Americans’ phones and laptops at the border.

The Protect Data at the Border Act would apply Supreme Court precedent requiring probable cause to search electronic devices after arrests to border crossings. 

The government has claimed an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s broad warrant requirement for activities at the border despite a lack of statutory clarity on the matter.  


“Traveling near the border shouldn’t give the government a free pass to throw out our rights and thumb through our phones without any suspicion of wrongdoing,” Wyden said in a statement. 

“The Fourth Amendment is more important than ever in the digital age, and as the Supreme Court recognized in 2014, smart phones and digital devices are shielded from unreasonable searches,” Paul said, referring to the Riley v. California case about arrests. 

Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBiden likely to tap Robert Califf to return as FDA head Biden faces pressure to pass infrastructure bills before climate summit Senate Democrat says Facebook offers 'crocodile tears about protecting children' MORE (D-Mass.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act Democrats call on White House to explore sharing Moderna technology abroad Lawmakers introduce bill to limit data collection at border crossings MORE (D-Ore.) are also co-sponsoring the Senate bill. Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuLet's build a superhighway in space Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll Democrats urge federal agencies to address use of cryptocurrencies for ransomware payments MORE (D-Calif.) plans to introduce accompanying legislation in the House.

The bill would also block officials from denying any American citizen’s entry into the country for refusing to turn over digital devices or passwords to access them. 

The government would be able to get warrants after the fact under emergency circumstances.

Americans traveling back into the country currently have minimal protection against border officials accessing their sensitive information stored on phones or computers without probable cause.

“This happens to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, tourists, and business travelers,” Kate Ruane, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “We urge Congress to pass this bill.”