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, 9 Jul 2008 @ 9:26am

    New Internation Law called ACTA

    There is a new international law going to start being enforced soon at borders and it says basically if you have anything illegal or can not prove purchase then your laptop is suspect and subject confiscation without due process.

    Items of interest:
    Music
    Movies (any movie now - not just child porn)
    Encrypted hard drive
    Encrypted File(s)

    New devices to be searched:
    Cell Phones
    Portable Music devices
    Portable Memory Drive

    It goes on to indicate you must have proof of purchase or be carrying the original. Failure to be able to show proof of purchase within a reasonable amount of time (to prevent a delay to others entering the country) will get your laptop confiscated and you go on your way or if blatant violation of the law is detected then you get arrested. You will be required to provide the encryption key on encrypted files or you are violating this new "international" law.

    American border agents, Marshalls, Interpol, and airport security will be required to increase their searches also. They will get a huge source of funding from the Recording and the Movie industry if this goes through.

    We will lose the ability to prove innocence before we are found guilty of this law. And once confiscated you can not challenge the law in court as it in an International law and you can not get back your property.

    This is happening now at the G8 Summit. And the US Congress which is currently controlled by the Democrats have already put their support behind it.

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