Your laptop, mobile phone or camera can still be seized at the U.S border without suspicion of wrongdoing, but new guidelines require border protection and customs to take a maximum of 5 and 30 days each to complete searches.
The updated rules also make agents better inform you about what's going on. It's worth noting the searches are not standard practice: the DHS says that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has dealt with over 220 million travelers over the last 10 months, but only 1000 laptops were searched in that time.
I guess I'm OK with them searching laptops at the border (in principle), but it's ridiculous if they don't need to suspect anything to do so. Especially when innocent folks can have the tool they use to make a living snatched away for 30 days. Supposedly it's the terrorism and kiddy porn stuff they're after. I hope so, because personally, I gotta have my Divx movie rips on long haul flights.
"Keeping Americans safe in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully screen materials entering the United States," DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement. "The new directives announced today strike the balance between respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all travelers while ensuring DHS can take the lawful actions necessary to secure our borders."
It's still a huge invasion of privacy, and thankfully The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit for more information on the searches earlier this week. As many do, it believes the DHS policy violates the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure.
What do you think? Were you one of those 1000 searched since October last year?
[DHS via Wall Street Journal]