A bill that would compel border agents to get a warrant before searching electronic equipment and online accounts of Americans has been introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. The bill, Protecting Data at the Border Act, will also ensure that people can cross the border without divulging account passwords.
The description of the bill reads thus “To ensure the digital contents of electronic equipment and online accounts belonging to or in the possession of United States persons entering or exiting the United States are adequately protected at the border, and for other purposes.”
The proposed bill makes direct reference to the fact that citizens of the United States have a certain expectation of privacy in their digital affairs, which is timely, considering the repeal of broadband privacy regulations introduced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by Senate Joint Resolution 34 (H.Res.230), which was signed into law by President Trump on Tuesday.
“United States persons have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the digital contents of their electronic equipment, the digital contents of their online accounts, and the nature of their online presence,” reads the text of the proposed bill.
Specifically, the proposed bill will “prohibit a Governmental entity from conducting an inspection of the external physical components of the electronic equipment to determine the presence or absence of weapons or contraband without a warrant, including activating or attempting to activate an object that appears to be electronic equipment to verify that the object is electronic equipment.”
The bill is sponsored by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) in the Senate. It is backed by Jared Polis (D-CO), Adam Smith (D-WA), Don Beyer (D-VA), and Blake Farenthold (R-TX) in the House.