Back in 2017, EFF, ACLU and ACLU of Massachusetts sued the US government on behalf of 11 travelers whose devices had been subjected to warrantless, suspicionless searches by Customs and Border Protection at the US border.
Now, a federal court in Boston has found in favor of the travelers, affirming that CBP cannot conduct searches of border-crossers' devices without particularized suspicion of illegal contraband.
The judgment has the potential to stem the rising floodtide of warrantless border searches of devices — up 400% in just three years.
International travelers returning to the United States have reported numerous cases of abusive searches in recent months. While searching through the phone of Zainab Merchant, a plaintiff in the Alasaad case, a border agent knowingly rifled through privileged attorney-client communications. An immigration officer at Boston Logan Airport reportedly searched an incoming Harvard freshman's cell phone and laptop, reprimanded the student for friends' social media postings expressing views critical of the U.S. government, and denied the student entry into the country following the search.