Keeping Your Laptop Lewdness Safe from Border Security - Cool New Gadgets and Gizmos Blog
Laptop Security tipsBorder inspectors keep finding child pornography on people's laptops, but sadly, they can't arrest such creepoids without setting the precedent that it's OK to search every laptop passing the borders.

I know I don't want the government sifting through all of my compromising party photos and/or DIY porn. Oh yeah, I'm also concerned about my rights to privacy and freedom of speech and stuff. As the various cases that deal with this issue wind their way through our nation's courts, Adam Liptak of the New York Times took a look at the various legal arguments which may come into play.

The first federal appeals court to address laptop searches agreed with the government's position that they're allowed to inspect every computer that enters the United States. Sadly, the one judge so far who has come out in support of allowing people to keep the contents of their hard drives from the prying eyes of border inspectors used some pretty crazy reasoning to back up his position. Judge Dean D. Pregerson of Federal District Court in Los Angeles threw out evidence that had been seized from a laptop on the grounds that our computers are inside our minds, man:
Electronic storage devices function as an extension of our own memory, they are capable of storing our thoughts, ranging from the most whimsical to the most profound.
Unsurprisingly, Judge Pregerson's kooky mind-meld ruling is expected to be reversed on appeal. The Times article says that the judges in the appeals court where Pregerson's decision landed "seemed persuaded that a computer is just a container and deserves no special protection from searches at the border." Luckily for those of us who don't want The Man rummaging around in our machines, there are other legal types who have come up with much better arguments against laptop searches at the border. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a supporting brief in one of the laptop search cases which argued that
Under the government's reasoning, border authorities could systematically collect all of the information contained on every laptop computer, BlackBerry and other electronic device carried across our national borders by every traveler, American or foreign." Which the brief describes as, "simply electronic surveillance after the fact.
In spite of the push for laptop privacy, the border is currently, in the words of the Times, "a privacy free zone." But child molesters and other travelers who may have questionable computer content should take heart. The courts have, so far, agreed that encrypted files are off-limits to border inspectors, since forcing someone to give up their password violates the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

If Your Hard Drive Could Testify ... [NYT]

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