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Homeland Security Details New Tools For Extracting Device Data at US Borders

Travelers heading to the US have many reasons to be cautious about their devices when it comes to privacy. A report released Thursday from the Department of Homeland Security provides even more cause for concern about how much data border patrol agents can pull from your phones and computers. From a report: In a Privacy Impact Assessment dated July 30, the DHS detailed its US Border Patrol Digital Forensics program, specifically for its development of tools to collect data from electronic devices. For years, DHS and border agents were allowed to search devices without a warrant, until a court found the practice unconstitutional in November 2019. In 2018, the agency searched more than 33,000 devices, compared to 30,200 searches in 2017 and just 4,764 searches in 2015. Civil rights advocates have argued against this kind of surveillance, saying it violates people’s privacy rights.

The report highlights the DHS’ capabilities, and shows that agents can create an exact copy of data on devices when travelers cross the border. According to the DHS, extracted data from devices can include: Contacts, call logs/details, IP addresses used by the device, calendar events, GPS locations used by the device, emails, social media information, cell site information, phone numbers, videos and pictures, account information (user names and aliases), text/chat messages, financial accounts and transactions, location history, browser bookmarks, notes, network information, and tasks list. The policy to retain this data for 75 years still remains, according to the report.

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