Citizens' rights to be free from searches don't hold everywhere. At border crossings, as in airports, people can be searched by authorities as a matter of routine course. But what should the standard be for not just rummaging through a briefcase, but for when the government wants to dig deep into the files on our electronic gadgets—even looking at deleted files?From Tech Dirt:
A "watershed" decision from a federal appeals court today ruled that the government must have "reasonable suspicion" to do such an intensive computer search. . . .
Border searches are an exception to the general principle, protected by the Fourth Amendment, that warrants be obtained. Still, a border is not an "anything goes" zone, as an 8-3 majority of the court emphasized in today's decision [PDF]. Searches still need to be based on a "reasonable suspicion." . . . .
In a somewhat surprising 9th Circuit ruling (en banc, or in front of the entire set of judges), the court ruled that the 4th Amendment does apply at the border, that agents do need to recognize there's an expectation of privacy, and cannot do a search without reason. Furthermore, they noted that merely encrypting a file with a password is not enough to trigger suspicion. This is a huge ruling in favor of privacy rights.