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
    unanymous, 30 Apr 2008 @ 9:42am

    The issue isn't just national security. There's a lot of cases of people having child pornography on their laptops. The right to search electronic devices is also a way to search for THOSE criminals possesing child porn. I think its a good attempt of the government to put efforts toward the restriction of child exploitation. However, searching laptops is equivalent to searching people's homes (without a search warrant)and in the process, possibly discovering criminal activity. The root of the problems must be addressed at the heart of man, between man and God. I applaud the government for trying to find the "dumb" criminals who do leave incriminating evidence in an obvious place on their laptop , but I don't think its going to work. Peoples hearts have to change first. Until values and morals increase, there will be a way around government efforts. Anyways, if there's nothing to hide, what's the big concern amongst you innocent folks? That's the way I see it. Let your laptop be searched five minutes. If you're innocent, be on your way. If the government finds a looney in the process, good for them.

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