DHS, come clean! What are you doing with my laptop?

Call on the Department of Homeland Security to Publish Clear Guidelines for What They Do with Sensitive Traveler Information Collected in Digital Searches

Our lives are on our laptops - family photos, medical documents, banking info, details about what websites we visit, and so much more. But when it comes to searching travelers entering the U.S., border agents can take a laptop or smart phone, search through all the files, and keep it for further scrutiny - without any suspicion of wrongdoing whatsoever.

That’s dangerous for travelers who value their privacy. It’s especially bad for those who carry sensitive, confidential information on their laptops - like doctors, journalists, attourneys, and business travelers. But to date, the Department of Homeland Security has refused to explain to the public what their border agents will do if they find sensitive information like medical records or journalists' sources in their searches of digital devices. There are no public guidelines explaining how sensitive information is stored, who can access it, and with whom it will be shared.

As technology advances, it is getting easier and faster for minimally trained border agents to conduct penetrating forensic analysis on our laptops in moments. DHS needs to be accountable for how their agents handle sensitive information on travelers’ digital devices. So join EFF in calling on DHS to hold border agents accountable when they access sensitive traveler data like medical records or confidential work documents.

We need to have clear rules in place for border agents so that they don’t trample over individual privacy rights, and we have a right to know what those rules are.  For doctors, journalists, lawyers, and many business folk, invasive border searches compromise the privacy of sensitive business information. And for the rest of us, invasive searches are an affront to our privacy and dignity. Tell DHS: hold border agents who access sensitive data accountable for treating that information with respect so that we can all travel with peace of mind.


Department of Homeland Security