New statistics released Tuesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection reveal that the rate of digital border searches is on pace to quadruple since 2015. That means more and more travelers entering the U.S. are being asked to turn over their electronic devices to be analyzed.
The increase appears to have begun even before President Donald Trump’s promise to scrutinize incoming visitors with “extreme vetting” measures, some of which included stepping up digital surveillance. And if Trump’s cabinet gets its way, the trend may accelerate further. Earlier this year, John Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, told a House committee that foreign visitors should have to give up their online passwords and submit to social-media searches if they want to enter the United States.
In the last six months, nearly 15,000 travelers had one of their devices searched at the border. Compare that to just 8,503 between October 2014 and October 2015, or 19,033 the following year.
If CBP’s border searches continue at the current pace for the next six months, agents will search about 30,000 travelers by the end of the fiscal year. That would represent an increase of one-third from the previous year.
The percentage of travelers who get searched is still very small—right now, it’s about eight in every 100,000 travelers—but the steady rise shows no signs of slowing. And it’s growing faster than the yearly increase in international travelers: In fiscal year 2015, the proportion was only two in every 100,000.