May we read your encyclopedia, sir?

Groups ask court to review laptop searches | InfoWorld | News | 2008-06-12 | By Grant Gross, IDG News Service

Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote in the panel’s April 21 decision.

“Courts have long held that searches of closed containers and their contents can be conducted at the border without particularized suspicion under the Fourth Amendment,” O’Scannlain wrote. “We are satisfied that reasonable suspicion is not needed for customs officials to search a laptop or other personal electronic storage devices at the border.”

The EFF and ACTE argue in their brief that “invasive” searches of electronic devices should be treated differently from searches of luggage. “Your computer contains a vast amount of information about your private life, including details about your family, your finances, and your health,” Tien said. “All that information can be easily copied, transferred, and stored in government databases, just because you were chosen for a random inspection.”

Tien said he expects a decision on whether to rehear the case within a few months.

Ultimately the customs people are doing it because it’s convenient. If it were as hard to search a laptop as it is to search freight shipments for drugs or nuclear materials, they wouldn’t bother.

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