Monday, December 08, 2008

U.S. Customs May Be Forced To Leave Electronic Devices Alone

Joelle Tessler writes on The New Zealand Herald:

Mohamed Shommo, an engineer for Cisco Systems, travels overseas several times a year for work, so he is accustomed to opening his bags for border inspections upon returning to the US. But in recent years, these inspections have gone much deeper than his luggage.

Border agents have scrutinised family pictures on Shommo's digital camera, examined Koranic verses and other audio files on his iPod and even looked up Google keyword searches he had typed into his company laptop.

"They literally searched everywhere and every device they could," said Shommo, who now minimises what he takes on international trips and deletes pictures off his camera before returning to the US "I don't think anyone has a right to look at my private belongings without my permission. You never know how they will interpret what they find."

Given all the personal details that people store on digital devices, border searches of laptops and other gadgets can give law enforcement officials far more revealing pictures of travellers than suitcase inspections might yield. That has set off alarms among civil liberties groups and travellers' advocates - and now among some members of Congress who hope to impose restrictions on the practice next year.

More here.


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