Proposed Congressional Legislation
Proposed April 4, 2017

Policy Summary

On April 4, 2017, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced in the U.S. Congress the “Protecting Data At The Border Act.” The bill is aimed at protecting the privacy rights of Americans as they exit or re – enter the United States with regard to their personal electronic devices and the personal information contained on those devices. The bill, if passed, would [1] require a warrant based on probable cause for a border agent to search a device and [2] prohibit law enforcement officials from delaying or denying entry to the U.S. by persons who refuse to hand over to border law enforcement officials their device PIN numbers, passwords and social media account information. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE


Senate Bill 823 is a needed new law because of the potential for abuse and the protections it promises to provide to American citizens. In 2016, Department of Homeland Security data showed nearly 25,000 incidents of cell phone searches by border agents. This was an increase from the 5,000 incidents in 2015. The Fourth Amendment provides against “unreasonable searches or seizures” and yet searches at the border constituted nothing more than agents thumbing through photos, text messages, and apps containing highly sensitive personal information, such as banking and health information. The search of digital devices of foreign nationals can still occur but Senator Wyden’s bill is properly narrow in that it implements protections for Americans and requires a more substantial connection to criminal activity to search. This will ensure that Americans are not subject to random searches of their digital devices when crossing a United States border. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact



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