Phones Can Legally be Seized at the Border

Episode 1394 (02:32)


When a story came out recently that a JPL Engineer was detained and his work phone seized, it caused Leo to do some research about your legal rights coming back into the country. Turns out that the 4th amendment's protection against unlawful search and seizure has been suspended when you're in "international waters," and that's what an airport technically is. So the Border Patrol and the TSA have the legal right to take your phone, computer and tablets and demand the password to access all your data. They can't technically arrest you if you refuse, but they can detain you for hours in order to convince you. Leo says that most, including him, would just choose to give the password over so they can go home.


Businesses should be thinking about what they should do when sending employees overseas. They could use burner phones and Chromebooks to protect proprietary business information.

The ACLU says to not lie to the TSA — just call them if you don't wish to give over your information. Or, use a phone and laptop you don't really care about.