New bill aims to stop warrantless gadget searches at the border

Warrantless laptop and phone searches at the border are a problem, and a new bill aims to stop them. The bipartisan bill is designed to protect the devices of Americans who are passing through the US border, and would require border patrol agents to get a proper warrant before searching the devices. The bill was introduced earlier today by a handful of Republican and Democrat politicians from the House and the Senate.

Phones and laptops and similar gadgets hold a wealth of information about a person, and also serve as portals to access accounts that contain even more information. A single smartphone may give someone access to hundreds or thousands of emails, text messages, and chat logs, as well as access to bank accounts through apps, any data stored on cloud services, and more.

For this reason, among others, it is important for these devices to be secured and to only be accessed by authorized individuals. This has proven problematic at US borders, however, where border patrol authorities have increasingly used and abused their powers to search gadgets without any warrants. In addition to violating a person's privacy, this can cause lengthy travel delays and also take up resources that could be dedicated to catching actual criminals.

This situation reached a head recently when border authorities confiscated and searched the devices of a NASA engineer, compromising confidential information in the process. This new bill, which was introduced by two Republicans and two Democrats, aims to reverse this problem. Whether the bill will manage to proceed in any significant way, let alone pass, is anyone's guess.