An employee of the passport office talking with Ukrainians who had gathered

Australian Border Force (ABF) personnel have reportedly managed to collect the passcodes of about 10,000 visitors' mobile phones in the past two years, new data has revealed.

There has been an increase in phone searches since the country's borders were reopened following the COVID-19 outbreak, The Guardian reported in an exclusive.

Additionally, the data showed that 1 in 4 individuals who were stopped at the border had data copied from their devices; there were 590 cases in 2021–2022; 1,139 cases in 2022–2023; and 1,447 cases in the current fiscal year. Human rights organizations have voiced concerns about these methods, pointing to the Australian Border Force's use of coercive techniques and possible overreach.

Guardian Australia reported the media outlet was able to get the data under freedom of information laws.

The data showed 2,087 searches in the fiscal year 2021–2022, which rose to 5,065 in 2022–2023, and 4,422 between July 2023 and March 2024. Even in the absence of legal force, almost 94% of respondents freely disclosed their passcodes, even though they were not legally required to do so, The Guardian reported.

The ABF has defended its practices in response to growing accusations, stating that while agents may ask travelers for passcodes or passwords so they may inspect their devices, they are not authorized to force passengers to turn over such information. Though the ABF asserts that it has policy to retain devices for no more than 14 days, unless additional inspection demands otherwise, there is no set period for their keeping.

Between January 2017 and December 2021, the Australian Border Force searched electronic devices at foreign airports more than 41,000 times without a warrant. Data indicates that a sizable portion of searches resulted in data extraction, raising worries about privacy and civil liberties even though passengers are not legally required to reveal passwords.