EFF Files Suit for Clarity on Electronic Searches

Posted by Keith McMillan

February 7, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Last week, I wrote about the possibility of having your smartphone searched when you’re pulled over for a traffic violation. This is even more concerning, the Washington Post has this article up about searches of laptop and other electronic devices by federal agents in airports.

The lawsuit was inspired by two dozen cases, 15 of which involved searches of cellphones, laptops, MP3 players and other electronics.

The article cites examples where travelers were asked to surrender their login and password, to access their email, and divulge other potentially sensitive information. One woman had her laptop taken, after she surrendered the login and password, and it’s never been returned:

“I was assured that my laptop would be given back to me in 10 or 15 days,” said Udy, who continues to fly into and out of the United States. She said the federal agent copied her log-on and password, and asked her to show him a recent document and how she gains access to Microsoft Word. She was asked to pull up her e-mail but could not because of lack of Internet access. With ACTE’s help, she pressed for relief. More than a year later, Udy has received neither her laptop nor an explanation.

All this, without a warrant. If this doesn’t qualify as unreasonable search and seizure, I’m really at a loss as to what does.

As a result of these actions, some corporations have issued instructions that employees clear their hard drives of sensitive information before traveling overseas. You may wish to no longer travel with that laptop or smartphone.

Update: Computerworld has a follow-up on “5 Things You Need to Know About Laptop Searches at U.S. Borders


RSS feed | Trackback URI

Comments »

No comments yet.

Name (required)
E-mail (required - never shown publicly)
Your Comment (smaller size | larger size)
You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> in your comment.