DHS Changes Laptop Search Policy…. But Don’t Jump For Joy Just Yet

You might remember that I wrote about the fact that the US Department Of Homeland Security has the right to search your laptop when you cross the border. There’s a new development on that front. It seems that DHS is going to alter that policy. In a nutshell, here’s what the new policy is:

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.

This is a step forward from what they were doing in the past. But some have said that this doesn’t go far enough:

Marcia Hofmann, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a ditigal civil rights advocacy group, said in an interview the new rules are an improvement. But they don’t go far enough, she said.

She said travelers should be told if information is copied from their devices. The new directive states that federal agents must tell travelers if they are looking at their property. But if officials copy the hard drive during this search, the traveler will not know.

“I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Hofmann said.

I would agree. I don’t have a problem with DHS trying to catch terrorists and other “evil doers” to borrow a George W. Bush phrase, but it has to be done in a manner that preserves the rights of the traveling public. What DHS is doing now is a step forward, but more needs to be done. Also, how do I truly know the data that they copy has been destroyed? Do I have to just “trust them” that this isn’t being collected somehow?

Perhaps, if we could have some more clarity on this we’d all feel better. In the meantime, you still might want to do what I suggested in the original post that I wrote.

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