U.S. border patrol has the right to seize your cell phone and scour every one of your personal channels before granting you access to the country.
Haisam Elsharkawi, an American citizen who was on the way to visiting Saudi Arabia, had that experience right before his eyes. Were he to keep arguing with a Homeland Security agent, he risked losing his property of the cell phone entirely – 15 minutes of searching his contacts, social media, pictures and more by some unknown agent ensued.
This incident raises the concern of how much reach do government entities have in placing their hands on your property without warrant. Border patrol workers have recently been granted extended access to search through virtually anything they desire, which includes smartphones and other internet devices.
One key stipulation of this power is an appropriate trigger for such applications, so as to limit unnecessary scouring to some extent. However, as we approach a new immigration restriction this week as President Donald Trump has promised, it’s important to note that this is happening at the individual discretion of one worker. It’s also not just toward immigrants, since Elsharkawi was already a citizen here.
Incidents like these, especially in this divided political climate, illustrate the tangible, polarizing effects that social media can have in our real lives and futures.