January 13, 2010 | By Jennifer Granick

Have You Been Subjected to Suspicionless Laptop Search or Seizure at the Border?

EFF has long fought for the privacy of your laptop and other digital devices at the border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has implemented program that authorizes searches of the contents of travelers’ laptop computers and other electronic storage devices at border crossings, notwithstanding the absence of probable cause, reasonable suspicion or any indicia of wrongdoing.

In U.S. v. Arnold we fought for a requirement that customs agents have some reason before searching your computer and in our FOIA work on border searches, we have pushed the government to reveal its policies and practices in this area.

Now, another civil rights group, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is seeking potential plaintiffs for a lawsuit challenging suspicionless laptop searches. As a first step in this effort, NACDL is seeking to identify defense lawyers who have had their laptops searched at the border and are willing to serve as individual plaintiffs. In order to demonstrate the effect of this policy on members of the criminal defense bar and to support the constitutional challenge, NACDL plans to assemble a group of individual plaintiffs who will develop affidavits describing the harm they suffer by having their electronic information exposed to government officials.

This lawsuit will not seek monetary damages for individuals who have been searched; instead, it will focus exclusively on fixing the unconstitutional policy. Participating members will be represented at no charge by NACDL and ACLU attorneys.

EFF supports the NACDL and ACLU's joint effort. To determine whether you may qualify as a plaintiff, please consider the following:

  1. Have you ever had your laptop, cell phone or camera searched when entering or exiting the U.S.?
  2. Have you ever had the contents of your laptop, cell phone or camera copied when entering or exiting the U.S.?
  3. Have you ever had your laptop, cell phone or camera seized when entering or exiting the U.S.?
  4. If you are employed by someone else, does your employer have a policy about traveling internationally with laptops, cell phones or cameras?
  5. Do you avoid carrying confidential business or personal information on your laptop, cell phone or camera due to the suspicion-less search policy?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, and might be interested in joining the NACDL suit, please contact Michael Price, NACDL's National Security Coordinator, at (202) 872-8600 x258 or michael@nacdl.org.

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