Woman sues feds over data retention after iPhone seized at border

Posted:
in iPhone edited August 2018
An American Muslim woman has filed suit after, she claims, agents at Newark Airport took her iPhone after she refused to unlock it. At issue is data that she believes the agents copied and retained, including photos of her in "a state of undress."




A woman named Rejhane Lazoja, a U.S. national, has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging violations of her Fourth Amendment rights and seeking the return of her property.

In the suit, Lazoja says that last February, she and her young daughter landed at Newark after a nine-hour flight from Switzerland, after which she was questioned, searched, taken to a "small, windowless room," and asked at one point if she was ever a refugee.

Agents then asked her to unlock her iPhone 6 Plus, and when she refused, they took it from her. The suit alleges that the phone was not returned until 130 days later -- when it was mailed to her attorney's office -- and that the plaintiff believes the government has retained copies of the data.

As a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, the suit says, Lazoja's religious beliefs forbid her from being seen in a "state of undress" by men who are not family members. The data, she says, included photographs of her in such a state, as well as private communications with her legal counsel.

"At no time, not when Defendants' agents and employees seized Ms. Lazoja's cell phone, nor at any point in the over 150 days since, have Defendants articulated a reasonable suspicion for seizing the phone," says the suit. "Let alone probable cause, let alone produced a warrant to search or seize Plaintiff's phone and personal data."

The suit seeks the return of the data, an expungement of any copies of the data retained by the government, and disclosure of which third parties may have received copies of it. The suit does not appear to be seeking any monetary damages.

Defendants in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, include Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Neilsen, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin C. McAleenan and Director Adele Fasano, and three unnamed customs and border officers. Apple is not a party to the suit.


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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 73
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,350administrator
    As a reminder, this is not the place for your political manifesto. Err on the side of caution, and if you even think you're toeing up to the line, maybe read our commenting guidelines linked at the bottom of every page.
    Solilordjohnwhorfindysamoriasvanstromwatto_cobraredgeminipaphilboogie
  • Reply 2 of 73
    NemWanNemWan Posts: 114member
    Discovery in this lawsuit should reveal IF the government is able to extract data from a locked iPhone 6 Plus.

    It would also be interesting to know what happens if you try to use iCloud Lost Mode or remotely erase the device in this situation.
    Solidysamoriaolslostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 73
    spacekidspacekid Posts: 166member
    NemWan said:
    Discovery in this lawsuit should reveal IF the government is able to extract data from a locked iPhone 6 Plus.

    It would also be interesting to know what happens if you try to use iCloud Lost Mode or remotely erase the device in this situation.
    It sounds like this is about if the US can seize items at the border which they've done in the past. I suspect there's past decisions that support the US doing this so it might not go anywhere.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 73
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,690member
    spacekid said:
    NemWan said:
    Discovery in this lawsuit should reveal IF the government is able to extract data from a locked iPhone 6 Plus.

    It would also be interesting to know what happens if you try to use iCloud Lost Mode or remotely erase the device in this situation.
    It sounds like this is about if the US can seize items at the border which they've done in the past. I suspect there's past decisions that support the US doing this so it might not go anywhere.
    it sounds like they have the legal right to seize and copy data without due process or probable cause (or giving them access to all your personal data is considered probable cause).

    patchythepirateolsviclauyycphilboogie
  • Reply 4 of 73
    bbhbbh Posts: 66member
    I hope she prevails. I don't think we are a "police state". Yet.
    ronngutengeldysamoriaolsanantksundaramviclauyycStrangeDayswatto_cobraredgeminipaphilboogie
  • Reply 6 of 73
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,158member
    bbh said:
    I hope she prevails. I don't think we are a "police state". Yet.
    The Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement doesn't apply at the border. 
    patchythepirateolsanton zuykovlovemnjony0
  • Reply 7 of 73
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 641member
    NemWan said:
    Discovery in this lawsuit should reveal IF the government is able to extract data from a locked iPhone 6 Plus.

    It would also be interesting to know what happens if you try to use iCloud Lost Mode or remotely erase the device in this situation.
    The agents that seized the phone would have put it in a faraday bag to prevent one from finding out what happens if you try those things.
    patchythepiratedysamoriaolsanton zuykovwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 73
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,160member
    The suit seeks the return of the data, an expungement of any copies of the data retained by the government, and disclosure of which third parties may have received copies of it.

    Good luck with that. This is really a sad situation. You don't have to be a Muslim or member of any race or religion to fall afoul of entering the US. This may apply to any country.

    The 'show us what's on your phone and/or computer because you could be a terrorist or pedophile although we have no reason to think so except for your hijab or other religious attire' is heinous.

    While some women, specifically, have had nude or semi-nude pictures on their phones and have later regretted it, it would seem this woman could have what we would consider innocuous family photos. But because she might not be wear a hijab in them (family photos) they are not meant for general viewing. But maybe she's a terrorist? Seriously?

    This serves as a reminder that if you travel outside of the country, you need to consider what you have on your phone or computer. And if you refuse to unlock either, assume it will be confiscated and plan accordingly. Most of us travel without incident and that's fine until 'it' happens to us.

    A former co-worker is an American citizen, by birth, of American citizens, also by birth. Her husband is a Canadian national, in the US as a Resident Alien. They've been married for 20+ years. Returning from home Canada, she was detained by US Customs while her husband was allowed to travel on. This was prior to the US requirement of requiring a passport to re-enter. She was held and questioned about what she did and who she talked to. She had to have a copy of her birth certificate sent, and was released after two days.

    One possibility is before entering a country, as in the above — returning home, might be to back up everything to encrypted cloud storage, and then wipe everything from your devices, and let them be searched. Unfortunately, this will draw unwanted attention.

    If devices are seized, once returned, if returned, nuke and pave might be in order.

    I'm a huge proponent of probably cause. It's what allows authorities to generate and pursue leads and is a great investigative tool. It also helps protect us from unwarranted search and seizure, stop and frisk, and being 'detained for investigation'. Without it, authority can be misused, unintentionally or deliberately. Use becomes abuse.

    There's always a flip phone. I've never subscribed to the 'If you have nothing to hide' doctrine. I wish this woman much good luck. 

    dysamoriaviclauyycStrangeDayscgWerksiMarc845
  • Reply 9 of 73
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    macgui said:

    The 'show us what's on your phone and/or computer because you could be a terrorist or pedophile although we have no reason to think so except for your hijab or other religious attire' is heinous.

    Not really, no.

    I'm a huge proponent of probably cause.

    Hmm.
    patchythepirate
  • Reply 10 of 73
    boltsfan17 said:
    bbh said:
    I hope she prevails. I don't think we are a "police state". Yet.
    The Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement doesn't apply at the border. 

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riley_v._California

    Have there been any other rulings since this one that had a different outcome?


    Edited: I got mixed up as this was not a border case.
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 11 of 73
    America is not run by Islamic religion. So that argument of hers is moot. 

    Howver, the government can’t just steal or borrow your stuff and keep it however long. 

    Go go take a trip. Come home. Get violated. Not cool. 
    patchythepiratetallest skilMplsPwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 73
    ipilyaipilya Posts: 186member
    I used to travel back and forth internationally at least 4 times a month. I was put on a "black list" where for the next 5 years I was personally screened each and every time I came through.

    The trigger was when border patrol wanted to look through my computer. I refused and told them they needed to get permission from my legal department (Microsoft). I came to find out later that rights do not exist at the border, since no in that zone has technically Entered the US. I find this odd since the US has laws that govern its citizens regardless where they are in the world, but essentials like the bill of rights do not apply. Double standards?

    To bypass this issue, I created two separate logins. So if they would ask to view the computer, I would simply log into the secondary account. They are not trained nor do they have the technical expertise to know better. In my case, they kept on looking for things like spreadsheets as I was "suspected" of illegal trading. Just a shame we cannot do this with our iOS devices.

    Its is an interesting topic but doubt very much this is a good forum for it.
    edited August 2018 dysamoriaSpamSandwichviclauyycStrangeDayscgWerksCarnage
  • Reply 13 of 73
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,158member
    boltsfan17 said:
    bbh said:
    I hope she prevails. I don't think we are a "police state". Yet.
    The Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement doesn't apply at the border. 

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riley_v._California

    Have there been any other rulings since this one that had a different outcome?


    Edited: I got mixed up as this was not a border case.
    I was looking that up after you posted that. I guess people have been citing that case unsuccessfully over phone seizures at the border. One judge said that case doesn't alter the U.S. Governments right to perform warrantless searches at the border.  
  • Reply 14 of 73
    irelandireland Posts: 17,549member
    As a reminder, this is not the place for your political manifesto. Err on the side of caution, and if you even think you're toeing up to the line, maybe read our commenting guidelines linked at the bottom of every page.
    So why mention her religion?
    SpamSandwichdewmefarmboy
  • Reply 15 of 73
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,350administrator
    ireland said:
    As a reminder, this is not the place for your political manifesto. Err on the side of caution, and if you even think you're toeing up to the line, maybe read our commenting guidelines linked at the bottom of every page.
    So why mention her religion?
    What does her religion have anything to do with a political manifesto? Yet, somehow, here we are.

    This conversation is over.
    edited August 2018 dysamoriaSolifastasleep
  • Reply 16 of 73
    nousernouser Posts: 65member
    If an iPhone owner had used a long passcode of say 12-16 characters to encrypt the data on an iPhone 6/6+, and had enabled the phone to erase the contents after 10 failed attempts, it would be a bit more difficult to believe that the data was compromised.  The claim that the data was compromised is only the owners "suspicion" at this point and no proof has been offered.  Unless the owner can prove that the data was compromised, this part of the complaint will likely be tossed.  What is of concern is under what circumstances a phone can be taken from the owner and not returned for 130 days. There is obviously a clear defined set of circumstances under which this can or cannot legally occur.

    I'd like to hear the case.  
    Why was the phone taken from the owner? Under what rule and regulation?
    Was there a reasonable suspicion of a potential crime? 
    Who took the phone and what was the ascribed reason?
    What specific agency(s) had possession off the phone during the 130 days?
    What was done to the phone over the course of 130 days?

    I could imagine scenarios where this action might be proper as easily as I could imagine scenarios where this would not.

    Wanting to hear more.
    muthuk_vanalingamSpamSandwichviclauyyc
  • Reply 17 of 73
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,771member
    When will people learn not to keep naked photos on their personal devices?
  • Reply 18 of 73
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    What does her religion have anything to do with a political manifesto?
    Well, Islam is a theocratic system of law, just as Talmudic Judaism is. Beyond that, any implications which result from the statement are outside the purview of this board.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 19 of 73
    bbh said:
    I hope she prevails. I don't think we are a "police state". Yet.
    The Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement doesn't apply at the border. 
    While I believe you are correct with regards to precedent (sort of), there are multiple issues here - and some competing issues.  

    When you enter the US the customs enforcement has the right to search whatever you are bringing into the country to make sure that you are not bringing in contraband or importing goods that you have not paid taxes or duties on.  When the constitution was written there was no concept of good that was not physical.  It is highly unlikely the writers of the constitution had any idea that it would be twisted to be used to search "your personal papers" since there for the purposes of duties and taxes they were of limited value.  In cases like this, the purpose of these searches is not for customs enforcement - but rather as a fishing expedition for security or policing.

    Prior rulings of the Supreme Court have so weakened the 4th Amendment protections that the 4th Amendment going forward will likely be of limited protection.  They twisted it likely because in the case that came before them -- they did not want the defendant to get off... and thus ruled incorrectly when it comes to precedence.  In doing this they came up with a "test" (that was not written into the constitution) about "the expectation of privacy".  In the modern era where most of our personal papers are electronic data, and the devices backed up these "personal papers" to other computers - the courts have continued to twist the 4th Amendment by applying this test "the expectation of privacy" as anything not stored in a hole in your own backyard - you don't have an expectation of privacy...   Basically, the courts have not been faithful as to the intent of the constitution.  This is not the only part of the constitution that they have done this for, the laws with regards to allowing the government to expropriate your property for public use are another case.  I highly doubt they meant for public use to allowing the government to take your property and give it to another private corporation as to increase the tax base (did they even have property taxes back then ... ) .  Public use is very simply - roads, infrastructure, public parks... not legalized theft.  

    IMHO, The Supreme Court should take the opportunity on a case such as this (assuming it gets appealed to the Supreme Court) to fix prior courts mistakes (IMHO).

    Understand that the individual was an American.  For all that do not have citizenship, the immigration and customs can reject your entry into the country so even if the government protected "your papers" -- if you as a non-American refused... they could just refuse you entry.

    (I am not an American, and don't currently live in the US).  
    edited August 2018 tallest skildysamoriaboltsfan17
  • Reply 20 of 73
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    bkkcanuck said:
    When the constitution was written there was no concept of good that was not physical.
    Are thoughts legally a “good”? And specifically, is “intellectual property” that is not yet written down considered a “thought”?
    ...anything not stored in a hole in your own backyard - you don't have an expectation of privacy...
    Even then you don’t have any expectation, because you don’t actually own the land. You can own your house, but not the land. Thanks, literally the communist manifesto, for subverting our government and getting that passed!
    Basically, the courts have not been faithful as to the intent of the constitution
    Gasp! A fact about the courts? Heresy!
    I highly doubt they meant for public use to allowing the government to take your property and give it to another private corporation as to increase the tax base (did they even have property taxes back then ... ) .  Public use is very simply - roads, infrastructure, public parks... not legalized theft.  
    Gotta thank Marx for that one, too.

    I can’t like AND informative your post, unfortunately.
    volcan said:
    When will people learn not to keep naked photos on their personal devices?
    When will people learn not to keep naked photos?
    edited August 2018
This discussion has been closed.