Electronic Data Privacy when Entering the U.S. – Your (Encrypted) Data is not as Private as You May Think


In response to the President’s Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has set forth policy re: search of electronics (long a subject of controversy, even prior to the current administration).  Check out below as it can impact persons traveling to the U.S.  In short, don’t expect that anything electronic will remain private, even encrypted data.


Does CBP have the authority to search individuals’ electronics?

All international travelers arriving to the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection.  This inspection may include electronic devices such as computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players and any other electronic or digital devices.

Various laws that CBP is charged to enforce authorize searches and detention in accordance with 8 U.S.C. § 1357 and 19 U.S.C. §§ 1499, 1581, 1582.  All persons, baggage, and merchandise arriving in, or departing from, the United States are subject to inspection, search and detention. This is because CBP officers must determine the identity and citizenship of all persons seeking entry into the United States, determine the admissibility of foreign nationals, and deter the entry of possible terrorists, terrorist weapons, controlled substances, and a wide variety of other prohibited and restricted items.

Keeping America safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the U.S.

Additional information on electronic searches is available here and here.


Michael Kabik, Chairman, Immigration Practice Group, Shulman Rogers at MKabik@ShulmanRogers.com.


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