EFF Asks For Details On Border Laptop & Mobile Phone Searches

from the guidelines-please? dept

Last month, we wrote about how more courts have been saying that customs agents could search the content of your laptop or mobile phone upon entering the country. For many, that's a pretty scary thought, considering the amount of personal or confidential information that people often have on their laptops and phones. It's even scarier when customs agents make a copy of that data, as it's not clear what they actually do with it or if they ever delete it. In response, the EFF, along with the Asian Law Caucus, are filing a lawsuit to force the government to give details and guidelines that explain its policies on these searches and what's actually done with the data. It seems like a totally reasonable question -- but given our government's belief in secrecy over all else, expect to find out that this cannot be revealed for "national security" purposes.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Fattyboombatty, Feb 7th, 2008 @ 9:47pm

    Interesting suggestion from Reddit

    If customs "collects" the contents of my hard drive, which includes my (legally) downloaded music and movie files, should they be reported to the RIAA/MPAA for obtaining copywritten material without an appropriate license?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2008 @ 10:28pm

    Great insight, I'd SAY HELL YEAH, then maybe the government will get in on the fight against the Record Industries. Like that would happen.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Alan, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 12:41am

    What about chain of evidence

    I'm a CISSP and when there is an investigation of criminal activity on a computer there are typically forensic procedures that are required to be followed to maintain the chain of evidence. Customs I'm not sure about, but police in the U.S. I think they still have to follow the rules for obtaining and cataloging evidence.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong.

     

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  4.  
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    MadJo (profile), Feb 8th, 2008 @ 1:31am

    Re: Interesting suggestion from Reddit

    Well, didn't the state try to smooth talk this issue by saying that copying data off of your hard drive is the same as looking in your bags and suitcases?
    Well in that case, copying CDs is the same as looking at them in a store.

     

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  5.  
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    John Duncan Yoyo, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 1:34am

    Re: What about chain of evidence

    As I understand it the problem with customs is that you aren't really in the country yet. So there is no such thing as unreasonable search and seizure. They can inspect anything that they want including the hard drive. Consider yourself lucky if they only copy the drive and not hold the computer for inspection.

    It should make drive encryption utilities like TrueCrypt and Bit Locker very popular with world travelers.

     

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  6.  
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    linuxamp, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 1:53am

    Re: Re: Interesting suggestion from Reddit

    Those are all bad analogies and I'm not sure you got their statement right.

    Browsing your files == looking in your briefcase
    Copying your files == making copies of your physical documents
    Copying CDs ! = looking at them in the store

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    linuxamp, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 1:57am

    Wonder if they can detain you for not providing keys or revealing passwords to encrypted data? Then again if you have encrypted files I'm certain they'll insist on making copies of your data or confiscating your device.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Sean, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 4:46am

    Chain of Evidence

    Firstly, Customs/Immigration/Frontier Police (call 'em what you want) generally have more powers than the police at the border crossing - stop & search without reasonable cause, etc. etc.

    Secondly, if the RIAA (or anyone else) tried to sue the government over copyright violations, the govt. would just invoke the state secrets privilege to slap it down. Mentioned right here on Techdirt on 20th Sept. 2005.

    Lastly, if the govt. want to know what it is you've encrypted, and you refuse to decrypt it or give them the keys, they would just get a court order to force you, and then lock you up in jail for contempt until you give in. Remember the CIA leak case???

    Best thing of course is to record any sensitive info in your head, or at least, don't try to cross borders with it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    BTR1701, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 5:12am

    Re: Chain of Evidence

    > Lastly, if the govt. want to know what it is
    > you've encrypted, and you refuse to decrypt it
    > or give them the keys, they would just get a
    > court order to force you, and then lock you up
    > in jail for contempt until you give in.

    Nope, they can't force you to reveal your password.

    A federal judge in Vermont has ruled that prosecutors can't force a criminal defendant accused of having illegal images on his hard drive to divulge his PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) passphrase.

    U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Niedermeier ruled that a man charged with transporting child pornography on his laptop across the Canadian border has a Fifth Amendment right not to turn over the passphrase to prosecutors. The Fifth Amendment protects the right to avoid self-incrimination.

    http://www.news.com/8301-13578_3-9834495-38.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Kan sas, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 5:43am

    Pass on Phone Searches, Pass on the US

    Homeland Security is such a Nazi/ Bush/ Republican/ fascist change that has occurred in the past 8 years. I hear it in the jokes, comments, and email chains that go around.
    Foreign companies would be better off skipping doing business with us. We are not the only market in the world anymore, and more often, not the best. Who would submit to have your trade/ personal secrets copied at some airport? Unless there are very clear rules out in the open with oversight, don't do it. I would not do it anyway.
    Our religious, anti science, paranoid ways are already causing our influence to wane. Do you believe in creationism? Do you believe this is OK?
    It may seem a dubious link to many, my point is we are less and less a reasonable or rational country.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    4-80-sicks, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 7:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Interesting suggestion from Reddit

    Copying your files == making copies of your physical documents
    Copying CDs ! = looking at them in the store

    Umm why not? How is making a photocopy of a piece of paper you don't own, different from making a CD copy of a CD you don't own? In either case, you are taking the information contained and transferring it to a second container, without affecting the original container. Or are you just being a superliteral pedant because copying a CD means the shrinkwrap that's on it in a store has to be broken?

     

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  12.  
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    LesterRay, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 7:42am

    MAIL YOUR LAPTOP TO YOUR DESTINATION AND GET IT WHEN YOU GET THERE. UPS, FEDEX, ETC.
    NUF SAID

     

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  13.  
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    Toto, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 7:59am

    RE: Pass on Phone Searche...

    "Homeland Security is such a Nazi/ Bush/ Republican/ fascist change that has occurred in the past 8 years. I hear it in the jokes, comments, and email chains that go around."

    So you think that this will change when the Communists move into the White House on January 20th, 2009??

    Have you got a BIG surprise coming!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 9:01am

    Lastly, if the govt. want to know what it is you've encrypted, and you refuse to decrypt it or give them the keys, they would just get a court order to force you, and then lock you up in jail for contempt until you give in. Remember the CIA leak case???

    Wrong, as of today, you do not have to turn over your encription keys, although no court has ruled on this topic.

    The above mentioned canadian border cross case, stupidly, the idiot waived his miranda rights and told custom officials that he had accidently downloaded child porn but always deleted the files. He allowed officials to view his computer and they saw files like "2 year old being raped during diaper change"

    Later they tried to get into the computer but couldn't because of encryption.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Rekrul, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 2:34pm

    I think Stallone said it best; "Why don't you stick a lease up my ass? This fascist crap makes me wanna puke!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Tim Perry, Feb 29th, 2008 @ 6:30am

    Hows this...

    I personally, am afraid to go to the United States specifically because of these insane border regulations. I don't want them looking at anything on my computer. Why? It's MY computer...not their's.

    This is going to do wonders for tourism in that nation.

    Also, George Orwell must have been a prophet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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