EFF Asks Appeals Court To Rehear Case On Laptop Searches At The Border

from the let's-try-this-again dept

Back in April, we noted that an appeals court reversed the one lower court ruling that found that customs agents at the border were overstepping their bounds by searching and confiscating travelers’ laptops without probable cause. This brought the 9th circuit into alignment with our circuits, so that, generally speaking, it appeared our judicial system had decided that your 4th Amendment rights do not apply at the border. This is particularly problematic for laptops, because unlike tangible goods that you pack, you don’t choose to “pack” all the data on your laptop. In other words, with most tangible goods you bring across the border, it’s done as a proactive choice. With the data on your laptop, it’s the opposite. Unless you proactively delete it from your computer, it’s there.

The EFF already has demanded Congress look into this issue, and now it’s urged the full appeals court to review this latest decision. Given that all the other circuit courts have also ruled this way, it may be difficult to get the court to agree to rehear the case (or, if they do, to change the decision). At some point, it’s likely this issue will get appealed to the Supreme Court as well — though it will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court takes the case without a seeing a split in the lower courts.

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Comments on “EFF Asks Appeals Court To Rehear Case On Laptop Searches At The Border”

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R. H. (profile) says:

As I type this on my desktop computer, my laptop’s hard drive is being encrypted. Customs can search all they want but they won’t be able to do much without my encryption key. As a citizen of the United States of America I have certain rights concerning property searches and self incrimination that I will NOT give up regardless of whether or not I have something to hide.

Pudro says:

Re: Encryption

I don’t know what encryption R.H. (comment #1) is using, but there is a free open source program called TrueCrypt that I use. If it doesn’t need to be accessed at start-up, I put it on my encrypted drive. If my computer got checked at the border, it would look like I haven’t really used the computer at all, aside from this one massive file that doesn’t even have an extension. And if they knew it was an encrypted virtual drive and demanded it unlocked, I could unlock it using a secondary password that will only show my “dummy” files I set up just for that purpose.

don't tread on me says:

privacy-- a right or a privilege?

This is yet another sad, outrageous, and unbelievable breach in our rights as united states citizens.
If you think this is ok, and no harm is going to come of it, you should really read the book Little Brother — the author, Cory Doctorow, has made it available for free download, and It’ll shake your world. Plus, it’s a darn good read 🙂

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

All Encryption FTW Posts

You are all morons.
Not for encrypting your drives, for that you get +10 IQ points to spend as you see fit.
You are all morons if you think that you are the only ones who know about encryption.
What happens when the border agent that searches your laptop also has TruCrypt on his personal computer, and knows that there are two types of encrypted file containers?
When you so willingly give up the password to your 37 gigabyte randomly named no extension having encrypted file container, and the agent sees nothing but a few text files, and possibly an .mp3, or two don’t you think he’s gonna put two, and two together?
How long can he detain you until you give up the real password?
Can he confiscate your personal laptop indefinably if you refuse to give up any password let alone the correct one?
This is total bullshit, and a violation of so many rights.
I am so sick, and tired of the “save the children” line being used left, and right to take away the rights of honest hardworking Americans.

known coward says:

umm people

This is an international border crossing, not a random traffic stop. You have no rights, you implicitly consent to give them away when you leave the United States. To anything and anyone going through an international border is Customs is allowed to do whatever they want to you including a full cavity search basically on a whim.

Now they are suppose to be looking for things like industrial, diplomatic, and military trade secrets, illegal plants, and uninspected food and the like, but when you cross a border very few of your constitutional rights apply.

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