Restrictions on Search and Seizure of Laptops Proposed

The "Travelersi Privacy Protection Act" bill has been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. The law seeks to curtail the ability of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to demand passwords, search and seize notebook computers and other small digital devices without probable cause.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI)?introduced S. 3612 along with Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). In the house, Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced H.R. 7118.

"The Bush administration has sought to undo over twenty years of legal protections by searching personal electronics without probable cause," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "We applaud the introduction of this legislation and call on Congress to act quickly on this crucial issue for travelers. In todayis world, laptops, cell phones and digital cameras are the storehouses for our most personal information. We cannot allow our privacy to be breached under the guise of border security."

Concerns have been raised about the privacy of citizens, not under suspicion for any reason having their privacy and perhaps corporate proprietary and trade secret data compromised as they return from foreign travel.

"Congress cannot allow DHS and CBP to turn our borders into Constitution-free zones," added Timothy Sparapani, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. "Americans have the constitutional right to privacy, and that includes the sensitive and personal information we keep on electronic devices."

Some business travelers have resorted lately to carrying essentially thin client notebooks and transferring encrypted working data via the Internet both before and after their business trips abroad.