Feeds

ACLU challenges US laptop border searches

Civil liberties assessment still pending

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Privacy campaigners are continuing a legal challenge against random laptop border searches by US customs amid concerns there may be a racial bias in those delayed and inconvenienced by stop and search powers introduced as part of the war on terror.

The ACLU also argues that searches of mobile phones by US border agents in the absence of any reason to be suspicious also pose a unwarranted invasion of privacy while delivering few tangible benefits.

Customs and Border Protection agents searched over 1,500 electronic devices at the US border over a period of nine months between October 2008 and June 2009, according to documents obtained by the ACLU as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and published on Thursday.

The documents also show that customs (CBP) agents forwarded electronic files found on travelers' devices to other agencies almost 300 times.

Some of the travelers inconvenienced by these searches complained that they ceaselessly accused of wrongdoing or otherwise embarrassed or inconvenienced by the searches, which agents are not obliged to justify under tightened regulations in force since July 2008. The policy was started by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama government.

THE ACLU is concerned that travelers have been left unable to carry medical records, financial information, and photos when they travel without the possibility of government inspection for no good reason.

"The CBP's ability to take and view the personal files of anyone passing through U.S. borders without any suspicion not only presents an inconvenience to travelers, but also fails to protect sensitive personal information that is commonly stored in laptops and cell phones," said Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU First Amendment Working Group. "Fundamental constitutional problems with this policy exist, and must be addressed."

"The government has a legitimate interest in searching electronic devices where there is individualized suspicion of wrongdoing, but CBP's policy allows officials to exercise their power arbitrarily," she added.

The ACLU is concerned there may be an element of racial profiling in those selected for data searches. CBP promised to issue a civil liberties assessment of the policy within six months but failed to make that deadline and is yet to issue a report. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Hackers thrash Bash Shellshock bug: World races to cover hole
Update your gear now to avoid early attacks hitting the web
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.