Travelers Deserve Protection from Baseless Laptop Searches
EFF Urges Court to Protect Privacy at Border Crossings
San Francisco - The government should not search travelers' computers at border crossings without suspicion, said the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) in an amicus brief filed today in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Over the past several years, U.S. customs agents have been searching and even seizing travelers' laptops when they are entering or leaving the country if the traveler fits a profile, appears to be on a government watch list, or is chosen for a random inspection. The Supreme Court has ruled that customs and border agents may perform "routine" searches at the border without a warrant or even reasonable suspicion, but EFF and ACTE argue that inspections of computers are far more invasive than flipping through a briefcase.
"Our laptop computers contain vast amounts of personal information about our lives. You may do your banking on your computer, for example, or send email to your doctor about health concerns," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "Travelers should not be subjected to unconstitutionally invasive searches of their laptops and other electronic devices just because they are crossing the border."
The case in front of the 9th Circuit, United States v. Arnold, arose out of a suspicionless "profile" search of Michael Timothy Arnold's computer at Los Angeles International Airport. The search uncovered evidence of alleged child pornography, and Mr. Arnold moved to suppress the evidence as the product of an unconstitutional search. The district court ruled that the agents lacked a reasonable basis to suspect Mr. Arnold of having committed a crime, and the government appealed the ruling. Mr. Arnold is represented by the Pasadena law firm of Kaye, McLane & Bednarski, LLP. The EFF-ACTE amicus brief was prepared by Arent Fox LLP.
For the full amicus brief:
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation