While civil-libertarian minded lawmakers and the ACLU push to tighten restrictions on phone searches of American citizens, particularly when leaving or entering the US, the Customs and Border Protection Agency reported that the number of phone searches executed at the border skyrocketed in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The border patrol conducted a record number of cellphones and other devices at US points of entry last year as they intensified their hunt for smugglers and terrorists.
In fiscal year 2017, which ended Sept. 30, the government searched the devices of 30,200 people, the vast majority leaving the country, up from 19,051 in fiscal year 2016. More than 80% of the devices belonged to foreigners or legal permanent residents, with less than one in five owned by a U.S. citizen.
"In this digital age, border searches of electronic devices are essential to enforcing the law at the U.S. border and to protecting the American people," said John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner for the agency's Office of Field Operations.