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
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2008 @ 6:06pm

    Interesting stuff, but it doesn't stop with customs. Cnet has a report today that congress is considering allowing the goverment to monitor everything you do on the net:
    In response to questions from Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, Mueller said his proposed legislation "balances on one hand the privacy rights of people receiving information with...the necessity of having some omnibus search capability, utilizing filters that would identify illegal activity as it goes through, and allow us the ability to catch it at a choke point." Issa suggested he would support such legislation. If Mueller's omnibus-monitoring proposal became law, it could implicate the Fourth Amendment's guarantee of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, courts have ruled that police need search warrants to obtain the content of communication, and the federal Wiretap Act created "super warrant" wiretap orders that require additional steps and judicial oversight.
    http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9926899-7.html?tag=nefd.lede

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