Random Border Searches of Electronic Devices - Is an End in Sight?


Since 2008, if you or your employees are traveling into the United States with a laptop, tablet or other electronic device, that device may be searched by border crossing agents, without cause or justification for suspicion. Administrative directives issued in 2009 did not eliminate the random searches, but imposed maximum time periods for retaining the device itself as well as information derived from the device. View the prior alert here. Last month, New York Representative Eliot Engel re-introduced the “Securing Our Borders and Our Data Act of 2011,” HR 6651 to stop random searches of electronic devices at border crossings.

If passed into law by Congress, HR 6651 would require a “reasonable suspicion of the person” carrying the device before the device could be searched. The bill further requires that any search be conducted by agents who have received appropriate training “in order to minimize the possibility of irreparable damage to, or erasure of, files and the hardware itself.” Searches must also be conducted in the presence of a supervisor. On December 17, 2012, HR 6651 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.

Whether Congress will take further action on HR 6651 remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you are engaged in international travel with an eletronic device, realize that the contents of the laptop, including any proprietary or sensitive business information, may be subject to review at border entry points.

>> To review HR 6651 click here.

Kathryn L. Ossian


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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