Follow up on Computer Seizures at Airports

Discussion in 'Living in Cancun' started by Jim in Cancun, Sep 30, 2008.

  1. Jim in Cancun

    Jim in Cancun Guest

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    30 September, 2008

    The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) has endorsed a new bill that guarantees travelers rights in cases of laptop seizure at U.S. borders. The “Travelers’ Privacy Protection Act of 2008” (Senate bill S. 3612 and House bill H.R. 7118), introduced by U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (Wisconsin), cosponsored by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (Washington), U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon), was introduced on September 26, 2008. According to ACTE Executive Director Susan Gurley, this bill requires U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials to demonstrate reasonable suspicion - and to obtain a warrant - before seizing a laptop or other electronic device and randomly copying the data it contains.

    “This bill introduces a much higher, and necessary, level of accountability to the laptop examination process,” said Gurley. “It requires the authorities to seek a warrant, which makes it subject to judicial process. It puts an end to the indiscriminate ransacking of data. It allows the traveler to witness the process, and it limits the time officials can hold a traveler’s hardware. It even provides compensation for damage to a traveler’s computer.”

    The warrant strictly defines the material that can be copied, stored, and shared with other government agencies. It also sets a brief timeline in which laptops and other devices must be returned to their owners. Finally, it requires all government agencies to keep any confiscated data in a secure facility, with limited access, and to be immediately destroyed beyond recall if further action is not forthcoming.

    “These are all key points that ACTE has been fighting for since 2006 and recommended in testimony before Congress in June 2008,” said Gurley. ACTE first introduced the laptop seizure issue to the traveling public two years ago, and has been the business travel industry’s leading advocate for transparency and change in this system.

    The language of the bill emphatically reiterates ACTE’s position of the unique nature of laptops and other electronic devices. It explains that unlike other “closed containers” that cross the border, laptops can contain full libraries of information about a person, including medical records, financial disclosures, emails, privileged work products, and journals. All of this material may be subject to invasive examination by search engines that are indiscriminate in their discovery.

    The bill states, “Electronic search tools render searches of electronic equipment more invasive than searches of physical locations or objects. Requiring citizens and other legal residents of the United States to submit to a government review and analysis of thousands of pages of their most personal information without any suspicion of wrongdoing is incompatible with the values of liberty and personal freedom on which the United States was founded.”

    The Travelers' Privacy Protection Act of 2008 will also dramatically change the procedure used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities in examining laptops and other electronic devices. Inspectors will have to state the suspicion, secure the approval of a superior, and examine the contents of the laptop in a confidential surrounding - in the presence of the superior and the laptop’s owner.

    Border officials will have three days to secure a warrant, or 21 days to secure a ruling from a Foreign Intelligence Court. Suspicious data may be used in the application. However, failure to receive a warrant or a ruling within the specified period of time will require any data to be destroyed, and the device returned to the owner.

    Gurley added that the entire business travel industry should support this bill as a beginning to the end of indiscriminate security procedures. “This bill is a good beginning,” said Gurley. “And it will be perfect when these protections are extended to all travelers, not just U.S. citizens.”
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