Alameda County
Bar Association

Border Device Searches and Digital Security 

Understand your rights!

Government demands to search travelers’ electronic devices are on the rise.

electronic devicesIn 2017, Customs and Border Protection searched 60% more electronic devices than in the previous year. There are also reports that agents have demanded passwords to electronic devices and have threatened to detain (or have actually detained) devices if people refuse to surrender their passcodes.  Some passengers traveling domestically have had their devices searched by TSA. 

Read the info sheet: ACLU of CA Electronic Border Searches – English or in Spanish: ACLU of CA Electronic Border Searches – Espanol

What can you do when you travel to protect your privacy and information?

  • Travel with as few devices as possible, and take with you as little data as possible.
  • If you must travel with sensitive data, store it in a secure cloud-based storage account—not on the device itself.
  • Password protect your devices with a strong and unique password, and ensure they are encrypted before you travel.
  • Do not reveal your device passcode to anyone when you do travel.
  • Log off social media accounts on your phone prior to traveling to prevent agents from perusing social media
  • Turn on airplane mode for all electronic devices before you cross a border checkpoint.


For complaints related to any Southern California airport (LAX Los Angeles International BUR Burbank SNA John Wayne LGB Long Beach), please call 213-977-5253 or visit ACLU of Southern California’s website.

For complaints related to any Northern California airport (SFO San Francisco International OAK Oakland SJC San Jose International SMF Sacramento International FAT Fresno), please call 415-621-2488 or visit ACLU of Northern California’s website.

For complaints related to any land Port of Entry from Mexico to California or San Diego International Airport (SAN), please call 619-232-2121, ext. 67 or visit ACLU of San Diego’s website.