In recent times, searches of cellphones and laptops at airports has increased substantially when entering or reentering the US. They are usually unwarranted, and latest research shows that in the last year these searches increased by almost 60%. This calls for additional measures to protect our personal data at the border.
The authority to conduct these searches stems from an allowance by the Supreme Court, called the “border exception”, which allows government personnel to conduct deeper searches at the border without breaking the Fourth Amendment. The justification given for its legality is that we lower our expectation of privacy at the border. Thus, it is important that we recognize the difference between the privacy of physical inventory and digital information at the border.
When it was put into place, the border exception was made to protect the security of the US by detecting physical contraband. It wasn’t made to allow the scouring through endless piles of the most intimate personal details of our private life. However, the problem is that we have agreed to upkeep this policy’s legitimacy in exchange for the passage of people and goods across the border.
A big issue is that most people don’t realize everything that’s at stake when they give up their digital information. Our devices hold much more data about us than we might think. As for the sensitive data that we are aware of, it’s very inconvenient to have to delete it every time we travel.
With all this in mind, the legislation has to be updated to match our technological advancement. And we, as a society, need to shift our perception about the importance of privacy concerning the digital world and our personal information within it.