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The government has historically had broad power to search travelers and their property at the border. But that prerogative is being challenged as more people travel with extensive personal and business information on devices that would typically require a warrant to examine.
Several court cases seek to limit the ability of Customs and Border Protection agents to search, copy and even seize travelers’ laptops, cameras and phones without suspicion of illegal activity.
“What we are asking is for a court to rule that the government must have a good reason to believe that someone has engaged in wrongdoing before it is allowed to go through their electronic devices,” said Catherine Crump, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging digital border searches.