CBP Compiles Massive Amounts of Travelers’ Data Through Border Seizures

September 15, 2022

In a letter to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus, Sen. Ron Wyden revealed that CBP has compiled a massive amount of travelers’ data through the searches of cellphones, iPads, and computers seized from travelers at U.S. airports, seaports, and border crossings. The data from the searches is kept in a database known as the Automated Targeting System, which pulls data from numerous sources. According to Sen. Wyden’s letter, CBP officials are adding data from as many as 10,000 electronic devices a year to the database, which is accessible to at least 2,700 CBP officers without a warrant. Further, unlike other government surveillance databases, CBP officials with access are not required to record the purpose of their search.

In his letter, Sen. Wyden criticized CBP for “allowing indiscriminate rifling through Americans’ private records” and called for stronger privacy protections. Sen. Wyden’s letter to CBP comes three days after Sen. Wyden and Sen. Ed Markey sent a letter to ICE urging it to end its “dragnet surveillance system.”

For years, EPIC has challenged CBP’s execution of warrantless searches of electronic devices at the border. In its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit EPIC v. CBP, EPIC obtained records relating to CBP’s auditing mechanism for its electronic search procedures, all audits, and the CBP handbook on security policies and procedures. The documents include access control proceduresauditing procedures, a device search audit chartuser agreements, and memos regarding the Inspector General’s field audit reviews of border searches of electronic devices, among other records.

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