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. identicon
    Rose M. Welch, 23 Apr 2008 @ 1:22pm

    This is hilarious.

    I have a 1G micro SD card that goes in my telephone. I can put files on there that can't be seen on my telephone.

    Are they going to take it out and look at that too? And does that mean that they're going to invest money in keeping every kind of micromemory chip because I sure as hell won't carry the adaptor with me.

    If I need to take a laptop somewhere, I can just remove the battery and send it ahead, or make sure the battery has just a few minutes of juice and send the charger ahead.

    If I can think of these things, criminals can think of better ones.

    This is an asinine waste of money and time.

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