Demand That Border Force:

Get A Warrant Before Invasive Phone Searches

End Warrantless Phone Searches at the Border

Did you know that Border Force can search your phone or laptop on little more than a whim?

An investigation by IT News found that Border Force have conducted more than 41,000 electronic examinations since 2017.

If you don't provide a passcode, Border Force can keep your device for as long as they want. There is no limit to what data they are able to access and little oversight on what other law-enforcement agencies they share it with.

Our entire lives are stored on our phones, including personal photos, notes, messages and emails. It is a huge invasion of privacy to have a phone or laptop searched. We have the right to expect that a high standard is being met before law enforcement can access our phones.

No one should have their personal data searched and seized for no reason and people shouldn't have to surrender their rights just to travel.

Our right to privacy and the security of our electronic devices should not be violated on the whim of a Border Force agent. Like other invasive searches, Border Force should require a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed and a warrant from a judge.

Sign now to demand an end to warrantless device searches.

The same laws that allow Border Force to search through our suitcases allow them to examine our electronic devices, make copies of the data and retain that data for years.

Our phone or laptop aren’t the same as dirty clothes or travel souvenirs. Searches of our personal devices are not only embarrassing and degrading, but a security and safety risk for journalists, lawyers and businesses.

But despite the serious and grave nature of electronic device searches, they are currently being conducted as if they are merely routine, without any oversight or accountability.

In 2016 Border Force agents secretly sent texts from a man’s phone while he was detained at Sydney Airport for nearly four hours. In January 2022 news broke that Border Force confiscated a man’s phone, demanded the passcodes and took the device for half an hour. The Guardian reported that Border Force searched 822 phones in 2021 despite having no legal power to compel people to provide their passcodes.

Security experts advise that if electronic devices are taken away from view, they could be permanently compromised. Forcing owners of these devices to make the difficult choice of paying to replace the device or using a device that may have spyware or other vulnerabilities introduced during the search process.

Border Force processes do not account for sensitive data that is protected under lawyer-client privilege or journalistic shield laws. By accessing phones and potentially compromising their security, these searches put people at risk and threaten the security of human rights and environmental defenders, journalists and their sources and lawyers and their clients.

We need to demand that Parliment to urgently update these laws to protect our privacy and security at the border. The border should not be a privacy-free zone.

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Header photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash

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