Feeds

Privacy watchdogs challenge laptop seizures at US borders

6,671 travelers searched (so far)

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Privacy advocates have sued the Obama administration over its practice of seizing laptops, cell phones, and other devices at US borders and copying their contents even when the owner isn't suspected of wrongdoing.

In a complaint filed in US District Court in New York City on Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers argued that digital devices contain such highly personal information that they are protected by the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures. Because the data often contains unpublished pictures and information collected by journalists and scholars, the devices are also protected by First Amendment protections ensuring freedom of speech.

The complaint was filed on behalf of a variety of individuals, including Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old doctoral student, and a dual US-French citizen. In May, he was traveling by train from Montreal to New York when officials from the US Customs and Border Protection searched his laptop. One agent demanded to know why he had downloaded pictures depicting rallies held by the militant Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

He was handcuffed and detained in a holding cell for several hours. When officials returned his laptop 11 days later, Abidor was able to determine that they had rifled through personal photos, a chat transcript he had with his girlfriend, email correspondence, and class notes.

The complaint alleges that the search – and the threat of more to follow – requires him to warn sources that the information they provide him may be acquired by customs officials. “Mr. Abidor fears that this will discourage some interviewees from being candid or from sharing information or documents with him that they otherwise would have shared,” attorneys wrote.

Border agents searched digital devices of 6,671 travelers from October 2008 to June 2010, according to the ACLU. Almost 45 percent of those searched were US citizens. The ACLU has more here. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.