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News Link • Privacy Rights

Privacy Complaints Mount Over Phone Searches at U.S. Border Since 2011

• By Charlie Savage

Grievances over lost privacy run through a trove of roughly 250 complaints by people whose laptops and phones were searched without a warrant as they crossed the United States border. Filed with the Department of Homeland Security since 2011, mostly during the Obama administration, these stories add a personal dimension to a growing debate over rights, security and technology.

In January 2016, a Virginia woman wrote of experiencing a "blatant abuse of privacy" after she and her 19-year-old son were pulled aside for extra screening at Newark Liberty International Airport upon returning from Spain.

"They took his laptop and cellphone and proceeded to go through both after getting the passwords from him," she wrote in her complaint, adding that her phone was taken and browsed through "without my consent," as well. While the officers were cordial, she said, "the line between security screening and blatant search and seizure without cause or explaining is not."

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