Trawling through social media of travelers at U.S. airports is a legal nightmare

Trawling through social media of travelers at U.S. airports is a legal nightmare

Trawling through social media of travelers at U.S. airports is a legal nightmare. Right now, immigration lawyers told Mashable that government officials often ask for immigrants and foreign travelers to hand over their phone so the official can scroll through social media information and more. But if that practice were to come up against a serious legal test — or if the practice became more widespread — lawyers say it would likely run into huge legal hurdles. When we requested information from the Department of Homeland Security as well as Customs and Border Protection about whether officials had begun to request social media information from travelers on a broader basis this weekend, officials did not respond to emails and phone calls. That it may, but Holman and other immigration lawyers said this expectation of privacy doesn't always translate into actual privacy when immigrants and travelers are trying to get through airport security. For one, officials may be allowed to search through social information on a phone if they claim to have "reasonable suspicion" that a search of this information is warranted. Often, Cobrador said, people traveling to the U.S. will also hand over their phones if asked, without realizing that this might be implied as consenting to a search. Once a customs official has a phone in hand and the password to that phone, they can search whatever they like — including emails, Facebook posts, and tweets. Given that requests for any information that might be found on a phone do not legally have to be followed, travelers can, of course, refuse to hand over their phone. At around 245,000 travelers per day, not including legal residents, that's a lot of social media feeds.

5 Psychology Hacks That Increase Website Conversions
4 Changes You Need to Make Now to Comply With the EU’s Tough New Data Law
The 7 Legal Rules Your Emails Must Follow
There are reports of social media feeds being checked at U.S. airports.
There are reports of social media feeds being checked at U.S. airports.

If you’re not from the United States, U.S. government officials may request your phone at the border. They may scroll through your Facebook feed. They may search your phone contacts. But according to lawyers, whether or not this is actually legal is a confusing mess.

According to immigration lawyers Mashable spoke with on Monday, the law is, at best, unclear on whether government officials can comb through pieces of your digital life to determine whether you are allowed to set foot in the country.

Right now, immigration lawyers told Mashable that government officials often ask for immigrants and foreign travelers to hand over their phone so the official can scroll through social media information and more. But if that practice were to come up against a serious legal test — or if the practice became more widespread — lawyers say it would likely run into huge legal hurdles.

Following an executive order by President Donald Trump that threw the legal status of immigrants and travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations into chaos, CNN reported that White House officials are discussing “the possibility of asking foreign visitors to disclose all websites and social media sites they visit.”

When we requested information from the Department of Homeland Security as well as Customs and Border Protection about whether officials had begun to request social media information from travelers on a broader basis this weekend, officials did not respond to emails and phone calls.

If the border policy continues to get tougher and searching through traveler social media information turns into a broader policy, lawyers said one of the most obvious legal hurdles in the U.S. would be the fourth amendment, which prevents unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Really what you’re getting into is whether or not this is a warrantless search,” Leslie Holman,…

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 0
DISQUS: 0