In conjunction with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the AAUP is seeking information from any faculty members who have had their cell phones or other electronic devices searched by US border patrol officers at the nation’s borders while traveling internationally. The Knight First Amendment Institute is a recently created non-profit organization that works to defend and strengthen freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age through litigation, research, and education.
The AAUP is concerned with the chilling effect such searches may have on academic freedom and with invasion into the privacy of academic work. We are looking into legal issues related to a US regulation that authorizes border patrol officers to search a traveler’s cell phones and other electronic devices at the borders without any basis for suspecting that the person has done anything wrong. The government enforces this policy against both American citizens and noncitizens, and there has been a sharp uptick in these types of searches over the past year.
We are seeking to learn more about people who have been searched and to explore possible avenues for legal relief. We are interested in hearing from anyone who has experienced anything along the lines of the following while traveling into or out of the United States:
- A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has asked to examine the contents of your phone, tablet, laptop, or any other electronic device, including asking you to unlock your device and/or provide a password to unlock your device;
- A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has examined the contents of your phone or other electronic device, and/or has taken your device outside of your presence for a period of time;
- A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has sought to examine your social media postings on your device, including by asking you for social media passwords and/or user names or handles;
- You have reason to believe that a border patrol officer (or ICE officer) made a copy of the contents of your cell phone or other electronic device; or
- A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has kept your cell phone or other electronic device for some period of time and then returned it to you.
We are interested in hearing from both citizens and noncitizens. Please send an email with a brief description of your experience and your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will keep your information confidential.
The American Association of University Professors