Traveling to or from the United States with a mobile phone? What US Customs and Border Protection can do to you…


Are you traveling to the United States, are you leaving the U.S. and are you carrying a mobile phone? Forget privacy when visiting the United States.

The US Customs and Border Protection agency may be interested in mobile phones by anyone entering or leaving the United States of America.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, US border authorities searched a record number of cellphones and other devices at U.S. points of entry last year. What they are looking for according to the agency: National-security threats and smugglers.

30,200 phones searched, 19,051 were leaving the U.S. 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.

A new written policy outlining procedures for searching and seizing electronic devices at the border makes clear that agents can only examine information stored on the device, not additional data in “the cloud” that can be accessed.

The policy makes clear that while agents can ask for passwords to access a device, the passwords aren’t to be retained in any way.

And the policy sets forth standards for agents to do an “advanced search,” which involves connecting the device to a computer to retrieve and copy information. Under the rules, advanced searches are allowed only if there is “reasonable suspicion” and “articulable facts” to support it, and with the approval of a supervisor. The standards for more in-depth searches hadn’t been spelled out before. No such standard exists for basic searches.

The new policy requires border agents to notify a traveler when his or her device is to be searched unless telling the traveler would harm “national security, law enforcement, officer safety, or other operational interests.”

Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who left the agency last year to become Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, said during a June Senate hearing that such searches aren’t routine and conducted only when necessary.

The Trump administration has promised to step up vetting of foreigners asking for permission to come into the U.S. and to change security at U.S. borders, including airports. Mr. Kelly suggested last year that border agents may even ask travelers for their social-media passwords and access to their internet browsers.

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Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.