June 25, 2008 | By Rebecca Jeschke

Congress Must Investigate Privacy Violations at U.S. Borders

This morning, EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien testified in a Senate hearing on laptop searches and other privacy violations faced by Americans at the U.S. border. Lee's testimony [PDF] outlined the dangers of random and invasive searches of travelers' digital devices, and urged more congressional investigation and oversight.

Today's hearing comes as Americans are increasingly complaining about how the Department of Homeland Security searches laptops, cell phones, and other digital devices as they come home from overseas travel. Agents often confiscate the devices, copy the contents, and sometimes even provide a copy of the data to the Department of Justice -- even when the traveler is not suspected of criminal activity.

EFF is deeply concerned about this blanket search and seizure power. We've participated as amicus in US v. Arnold, an important case concerning suspicionless searches at the border. We've also teamed up with other privacy and professional associations to ask lawmakers for answers, and we've sued DHS for refusing to make their policies public.

If you are concerned about your privacy at the border, you can read up on our tips to protect yourself. But without better polices at the border, there are no guarantees. The unique nature of electronic information stored on computers and other portable devices requires search standards that protect the privacy of Americans in the Information Age, and we hope that Congress soon starts work on this important issue.

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