CBP searched 30,000 devices last year without warrant, up 4x from 3 years prior

The US is increasingly rejecting entry to people because of content sent to those persons by others, on social media and messaging apps.

Customs and Border Patrol searched at least 30,000 tech devices at border checkpoints in 2018, an increase of 4 times over the number of devices 3 years prior.

Increasingly, individuals who have been subjected to those warrantless border device searches are told they've been rejected entry because of images, videos, or messages sent to them by family members or others they're connected to on social media.

Zack Whittaker at TechCrunch writes:

It's a bizarre set of circumstances that has seen countless number of foreign nationals rejected from the U.S. after friends, family or even strangers send messages, images or videos over social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, which are then downloaded to the traveler's phone.

The latest case saw a Palestinian national living in Lebanon and would-be Harvard freshman denied entry to the U.S. just before the start of the school year.

Immigration officers at Boston Logan International Airport are said to have questioned Ismail Ajjawi, 17, for his religion and religious practices, he told the school newspaper The Harvard Crimson. The officers who searched his phone and computer reportedly took issue with his friends' social media activity.

Ajjawi's visa was canceled and he was summarily deported — for someone else's views.

The United States border is a bizarre space where U.S. law exists largely to benefit the immigration officials who decide whether or not to admit or deny entry to travelers, and few protect the travelers themselves. Both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals alike are subject to unwarranted searches and few rights to free speech, and many have limited access to legal counsel.

That has given U.S. border officials a far wider surface area to deny entry to travelers — sometimes for arbitrary reasons.

Or racist ones.

US border officials are increasingly denying entry to travelers over others' social media
[Zack Whittaker, August 27, 2019, techcrunch.com via techmeme.com]

IMAGE: A U.S. immigration form describing why a traveler was denied entry to the U.S. (Abed Ayoub/Twitter)