Privacy SOS

That chatty customs agent at the airport is taking detailed notes, and might be sharing them with the FBI

When the civil rights and liberties organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice sued the FBI to obtain its files on a client of theirs, they discovered that Customs officials at US airports share detailed information with the Bureau. When officials at US borders ask you questions about your trip abroad and your personal life, when they rifle through your belongings, they take detailed notes. They may subsequently share those notes with the FBI.

Among the things the civil rights group found Customs had shared with the FBI was the following information:

Detailed information about the books in his bags, including descriptions of the authors based on information the customs officer apparently found on the Internet
The name of the mosque he attends in the United States
That his wife was 3 months pregnant and her address in a European country
His employer’s name and information about his annual salary
His plans to buy land in his country of origin
Information about who he saw abroad, including details like how long they met for coffee and what they did together
His roommates in the United States and their jobs, including information about the primary renter on the lease
His educational aspirations and information about financial difficulty leading him to look for cheaper rent
Notes from his passport, including information about his travel history
His debit card number, found in his wallet
His bank account number, taken from a check found in his luggage
Traveling abroad? Know your rights. And know that anything you bring home from a trip outside the United States may very well be documented in any number of secret government files about you.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.