Feeds

Privacy watchdogs challenge laptop seizures at US borders

6,671 travelers searched (so far)

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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 Because the data often contains unpublished pictures and information collected by journalists and scholars, the devices are also protected by First Amendment protections ensuring freedom of speech.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. ®

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers
They're not emails, they're business records, says court
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?