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Screen Lock: Ore. Senator Wants to Curb Phone Searches at Border

American citizens have said border patrol has asked them to give up their phone and social media passwords at the border. (Kritchanut/iStock)
American citizens have said border patrol has asked them to give up their phone and social media passwords at the border. (Kritchanut/iStock)
April 24, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A bill to keep Americans' phone and social media passwords out of the hands of the border patrol will again be considered now that members of Congress are back in Washington, D.C. after a two-week recess.

The Protecting Data at the Border Act, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, would stop customs agents from searching Americans' digital devices without a warrant at the border, except in emergency situations. Recently, American citizens have come forward saying they have had to give passwords for their phones and social media profiles to border patrol agents.

Wyden called that indefensible and is sounding the alarm over privacy concerns.

"I don't believe an American's constitutional rights stop at the border,” Wyden said.

There is also a companion bill in the House, sponsored by members of both parties. It would only apply to citizens and green card holders, meaning foreign travelers and visa applicants still could have their phones and social media profiles searched.

Wyden said if the Trump administration is arguing that these searches are making the country safer, it should supply his office with evidence that supports this. He said he also would like to know how many innocent American citizens have been swept up in these searches.

So far the administration has stymied his requests. He said something is wrong when people aren't required to give up their phones when they're arrested, but people at the border are.

"I just think something's way out of whack with respect to sensible intelligence and law enforcement policies when a person is arrested and has more rights than a law abiding American at the border,” the Senator said.

The bills were introduced at the beginning of April. Both are in committee.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR