As Expected, Court Says Customs Can Search Your Laptop

from the you-have-no-privacy-at-the-border dept

As was widely expected, an appeals court has ruled that customs agents have every right to search the content of your laptop, reversing the only court case that had ruled otherwise (a few others had previously said such searches were just dandy). The court found (just like the other rulings) that there's an "exception" to the 4th Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure at the border. The government, of course, claims that it needs to be able to search laptops to keep people safe -- but it doesn't explain why it needs the ability to search any laptop even if there's no suspicion or reason to do a further search. The lower court had noted, correctly, that there's so much data and information on a laptop, that it's effectively an extension of your brain. This makes sense. Since so much is digital today, you don't pack up your computer like you pack your suitcase. Everything is already on it. So while you can understand why it's okay to search your suitcases at the border, giving full access to a laptop seems to go beyond reason... unfortunately, the courts disagree. In the meantime, if you're traveling into the country, consider anything on your laptop fair game... unless, of course, it's encrypted. In that case, at least one court says you don't need to give up your encryption key.

Filed Under: border patrol, customs, laptops, search and seizure


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  1. icon
    chris (profile), 23 Apr 2008 @ 12:20pm

    EEE ftw!

    my EEE boots off it's internal flash, a thumb drive, or a SD card. i use the default install (the fisher price UI) on the internal flash for school stuff and i run back track on a card for my *ahem* hobby.

    so if i wanted to slip into or out of the country i can just leave my laptop in fisher price mode until i get to where i am going and make other arrangements for my backtrack card.

    as for data, just encrypt it and push it someplace safe on the internet, cross the border, and pull it back down. you could do it at the airport on the wireless network if you were feeling particularly snarky... you tunnel your traffic thru SSH on potentially hostile networks, right?

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