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A Tech-Econ Mashup with a Libertarian Flavor

Update on DHS Laptop Search Policy

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) released a press release today outlining new legislation to rein in the DHS and its invasive border search procedures:

“The chief responsibility of the United States Government is to protect its citizens, and while doing so it is critical that we do not overshadow the obligation to protect the privacy and rights of Americans. This legislation will provide clear and commonsense legal avenues for the Department of Homeland Security to pursue those who commit crime and wish to do our country harm without infringing on the rights of American citizens. Importantly, it will provide travelers a level of privacy for their computers, digital cameras, cellular telephones and other electronic devices consistent with the Constitution and our nation’s values of liberty,” said [co-sponsor Rep. Adam] Smith [D-WA].

The Travelers Privacy Protection Act requires Department of Homeland Security agents to have reasonable suspicion of illegal activity before searching the contents of laptops or other electronic devices carried by U.S. citizens or lawful residents, and it prohibits profiling travelers based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin. The bill also specifies that after 24 hours, a search becomes a seizure, which requires probable cause and a warrant or court order. Information acquired during an electronic border search is protected through strict limitations on disclosure, with narrow exceptions for sharing information about possible criminal violations or foreign intelligence information. Finally, the bill contains provisions ensuring that DHS provides information on its border search policies and practices to Congress and the public.

Surprisingly lucid, no? While I don’t particularly like Feingold’s previous disregard for the constitution (the pro-campaign finance reform speech I made in 11th grade notwithstanding… ), the Travelers Privacy Protection Act is a big step in the right direction towards protecting Americans’ privacy.

Still… 24 hours is long enough for the DHS to steal my copyrighted music and movie files. Would being stopped, searched, and seized at the US/Mexican border fall under “fair use,” I wonder? 😉

H/T: Slashdot

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Filed under: Computers and Software, Politics, , , ,

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