Right To Search Laptops To Be Limited On US Borders

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 8, 2008
Updated • Dec 9, 2014

The right of US border guards to search the laptops will be limited today according to a news post on the Internet news site Vnunet (article no longer available). The current policy in the United States poses a risk to anyone traveling to the United States.

Border guards can practically search the contents of a laptop including private emails, visited websites and view documents, pictures and videos that are stored on the website. Laptops can be kept for an undefined time for data analysis if the border guards chooses so.

The data on the device can be copied and shared with other agencies according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The bill was introduced by three Democratic senators to protect data from random searches. The news article is not clear in at least two areas and requires further analysis. The article mentions law-abiding Americans a few time and one could interpret that the new bill will only protect data of US citizens from being searched at random while it won't protect the data of non-US citizens who are still subject to the same procedure.

The second issue that is not clear if the bill only protects data on laptops or data on all digital devices such as mobile phones, PDAs or iPods. An article published on The Register seven days ago confirmed that the new bill will prevent random searches of electronic devices.

According to a Register article that was published a week ago the new bill will affect any electronic devices from being searched randomly at US borders. The article seems to imply that this affects all visitors and not only US citizens.

Border Guards have to show probable cause if the new bill passes to search digital devices.



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  1. anon said on October 10, 2008 at 1:02 am

    For what it’s worth, any electronic threat carried by laptops can still be transmitted through the internet. Why else is it called the world wide web?

  2. Andrew said on October 9, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    They can steal a job because they’ll work under the table for less benefits.

    Also, I’m not a US citizen, but a US Perm resident. My wife is a USC – if it becomes a USC only thing, I’ll be sure she’s the one to carry my laptop.

  3. Dante said on October 8, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Most likely this Bill will be for U.S. Citizens only. There is a HUGE backlash against foreigners in the U.S. right now. What with the frenchies thinking that they have a say in the U.S. Congress and the Latinos “stealing” jobs from Americans. [How illiterate non-English speaking smelly wetbacks can steal a job from someone raised in a country with free education? No clue.]

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