Thursday, August 27, 2009

U.S. Gov't Tightens Oversight of Laptop Border Searches

An AP newswire article by Eileen Sullivan, via, reports that:

The Obama administration on Thursday put new restrictions on searches of laptops at U.S. borders to address concerns that federal agents have been rummaging through travelers' personal information.

The long-criticized practice of searching travelers' electronic devices will continue, but a supervisor now would need to approve holding a device for more than five days. Any copies of information taken from travelers' machines would be destroyed within days if there were no legal reason to hold the information.

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 travelers than suitcase inspections might yield. That has set off alarms among civil liberties groups and travelers' advocates who say the government has crossed a line by examing electronic contact lists and confidential e-mail messages, trade secrets and proprietary business files, financial and medical records and other deeply private information.

In some cases, travelers suspected that border agents were copying their files after taking their laptops and cell phones away for time periods ranging from a few minutes to a few weeks or longer.

More here.


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