August 28th, 2009, 19:18 PM
DHS Clarifies Laptop Border Searches
The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday released new directives covering border searches of electronic devices and media, but the government's rules leave open the question of whether individuals can be compelled to provide passwords and encryption keys.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement characterized the rules as an attempt to balance the investigatory requirements for fighting crime and terrorism with privacy and civil liberties.
In February, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reconsider an appeals court ruling that laptops are like suitcases and can be searched at borders without reasonable suspicion.
Laptop searches remain an unusual event for travelers entering the country. More than 221 million travelers passed through U.S. ports of entry between Oct. 1, 2008, and Aug. 11, 2009, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). These entries resulted in about 1,000 laptop searches, only 46 of which were in-depth.
Nevertheless, the DHS policy of treating laptops and electronic devices as the equivalent of suitcases and backpacks in terms of border searches has alarmed business travel and privacy groups.
Full story: InformationWeek