New Apple Mac
Travellers' digital devices have come under scrutiny at US borders REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

Activists from a free speech organisation have filed a lawsuit against the Donald Trump-led administration seeking data regarding searches of travellers' mobile phones, laptops and other digital devices at US borders.

The lawsuit filed by the Knight Institute wants the Trump administration, in particular the immigration and Homeland Security departments, to provide "statistical, policy, and assessment records" regarding the searches. It also seeks expeditious action on its request given the ongoing public debate on the issue.

The activists say they had already sought the data from Homeland Security but have not received any response. It also asked for a detailed breakdown of device seizures if any by race, ethnicity, nationality and citizenship status of the travellers.

The lawsuit filed in the District court of Columbia seeks the same information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Under FOIA, citizens and even foreigners can compel executive branches of the government to provide federal records for little or no cost if the judiciary deems it appropriate.

Trump has been pushing an aggressive border security policy under which phones, laptops, tablets and even social media accounts of some travellers have been checked.

Recently, the US government also banned travellers from select Muslim-majority countries from carrying any electronic device other than a cell phone on board flights entering the country. Privacy activists post the order had expressed concern regarding handling of travellers' electronic devices and possible data theft in the process.

Homeland Security has not issued any statement on the lawsuit yet.