U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are not allowed
to access or view consumer data that is stored in the cloud, such as social networks and email. The agency admitted as much in a letter sent by acting commissioner Kevin McAleenan to Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The Senators posed several questions to the agency early this year after Americans reported a surge in border agents asking people to unlock their phones and even share social media passwords upon reentering the U.S. McAleenan insists officers are allowed to search phones without consent and without a warrant. For the most part, they are looking for information regarding terrorism, drug trafficking, and child pornography. However, the agency is limited to viewing content that is saved directly to the device, such as call logs, text messages, and photos. "Border searches conducted by CBP do not extend to information that is located solely on remote servers," wrote McAleenan. This means Americans' Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts are off limits to border patrol agents. McAleenan admitted that Americans do not have to unlock their devices or hand over their passwords, but they do so at the risk of losing their device, which may be detained by border patrol agents. The agency insists that phone searches are "exceedingly rare."