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According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, US border authorities searched a record number of cellphones and other devices at USA points of entry a year ago. That search can involve copying the data to use in an investigation later.

CBP official John Wagner said in a statement, "In this digital age, border searches of electronic devices are essential to enforcing the law at the U.S. border and to protecting the American people".

The policy states that without probable cause, agents may only retain information related to immigration, customs, and other enforcement matters.

The agency Friday also released an updated written directive that clarifies how passwords and cloud data should be handled.

Agents are also prohibited from retrieving any information that is stored remotely, such as data stored in the cloud. If the traveler does not disable the network connectivity themselves, the agent will, according to the policy. The government inspected a record number of worldwide travelers' electronic devices in the last budget year. It's not clear if you have the choice not to comply, since officers can apparently "detain" a device if they can't complete an inspection. The agency has revealed those numbers in an announcement, along with changes to its directives that could be both good and bad news for travelers.

Should you worry about USA border agents searching your phone?

CPB said that agents will destroy any information they recover unless they discover any materials that indicate an "imminent threat" to homeland security.

"In this digital age, border searches of electronic devices are essential to enforcing the law at the US border and to protecting the American people", CBP's deputy executive assistant commissioner John Wagner said in a statement.

Agents inspected 30,200 electronic devices in the fiscal year 2017, which ended in September - a almost 60 per cent increase from 2016.

CBP officials credit the spike, in part, to the fact that people now carry more devices - often several at a time - along with growing traveler volume and risk assessments. About 80 percent of searches are conducted on non-US citizens, according to ABC News. The agency claims that with these searches, it was able to find export controls violations, evidence of terrorist activity, child porn, "intellectual property rights violations", and more.