US customs: Yes, we can seize your laptop, iPod, etc. And what exactly do you plan to do about it?
The Department of Homeland Security has outlined what we’ve all known for some time – that border agents are allowed to snoop through files on your computer, mobile phone or any other digital device.
Officials can keep documents or computers, take them to an off-site location, copy the contents and share the data with other agencies. If there is no probable cause to keep the information after this it must be destroyed. A San Francisco court upheld the right of border agents to search laptops even without reasonable cause back in April. (more…)
Security guide to customs-proofing your laptop
If you travel across national borders, it’s time to customs-proof your laptop.
Customs officials have been stepping up electronic searches of laptops at the border, where travelers enjoy little privacy and have no legal grounds to object. Laptops and other electronic devices can be seized without reason, their contents copied, and the hardware returned hours or even weeks later.
Executives have been told that they must hand over their laptop to be analyzed by border police–or be barred from boarding their flight. A report from a U.S.-based marijuana activist says U.S. border guards browsed through her laptop’s contents; British customs agents scan laptops for sexual material; so do their U.S. counterparts.
These procedures are entirely legal, according to court precedents so far. A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled that an in-depth analysis of a laptop’s hard drive using the EnCase forensics software „was permissible without probable cause or a warrant under the border search doctrine.” One lawsuit is seeking to force the government to disclose what policies it follows. (more…)